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Consider mobile pathology labs for testing jail inmates, HC tells Maharashtra govt

The prison authorities on Thursday informed the Bombay high court (HC) that the number of Covid-19 cases in prisons across the state has come down substantially and there are only five positive cases in Taloja jail, one of the most populous prisons in the state
By KAY Dodhiya, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JUN 11, 2021 12:28 AM IST

The prison authorities on Thursday informed the Bombay high court (HC) that the number of Covid-19 cases in prisons across the state has come down substantially and there are only five positive cases in Taloja jail, one of the most populous prisons in the state. The court asked jail authorities to consider providing mobile pathological labs so that prisoners do not have to be taken to hospitals for blood and other tests.

The court was informed that 4,650 inmates aged above 45 have been vaccinated as per court directions.

The prison authorities also told the bench that it has prepared a draft to amend the prison manual with regards to treating prisoners in civic hospitals, which is not allowed so far, and sent it for approval to the state government.

The division bench of chief justice DIpankar Datta and justice Girish Kulkarni, while hearing the suo motu public interest litigation (PIL) initiated by it based on news reports that the number of prisoners dying due to Covid had increased in the second wave, was informed by advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni that the number of Covid cases in jails across the state had been brought down substantially.

While submitting a compliance report on directions passed by the bench in earlier hearings, Kumbhakoni said the home department has directed the public health department to look into the suggestion of having doctors from civil hospitals visiting jails to overcome the paucity of resident doctors in jails.

He further submitted that a draft proposal to include civic-run hospitals in the prison manual to treat inmates had also been submitted to the home department on June 7, and a response is awaited.

Assuring the bench that jail authorities are complying with court orders to prioritise vaccination to prisoners with comorbidities in all age groups, Kumbhakoni submitted that around 1,300 such inmates had been vaccinated and another 4,250 inmates across all age groups have also been vaccinated. He assured the bench that vaccination for the over 27,000 inmates would be undertaken as and when doses are made available. He also stated that separate arrangements were also made for prisoners who came in contact with Covid-positive inmates and measures were in place to observe them regularly.

On the suggestion of professor Vijay Raghavan of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and senior counsel Mihir Desai who are assisting the court to direct the state and prison authorities to arrange for accessible blood and other testing facilities in jail hospitals, the court suggested that the state could resort to mobile pathological labs that are being used in rural areas.

The court then posted the PIL for further compliance after two weeks.

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