Inmates with comorbidities will have access to RDTs depending on availability of Covid-19 test kits: State informs HC
The Maharashtra government has informed the Bombay high court (HC) that inmates with comorbid conditions would have access to rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) depending on the availability of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) test kits.
Maharashtra advocate-general (A-G) Ashutosh Kumbhakoni submitted before the court that as inmates were relatively safe in the confines of a prison, the test kits could be deployed in high-risk areas on a priority basis to prevent the spread of the viral outbreak.
The state government made the submissions before the HC following a clutch of public interest litigations (PILs) that were filed expressing concerns about inmates’ health conditions after several prisoners tested Covid-19 positive across Maharashtra’s jails and correctional homes and four undertrials also died of the viral infection as their autopsy reports revealed later.
A two-member division bench of the HC, comprising Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice M S Karnik, while hearing via video-conference the PILs filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) --- the largest and the oldest human rights organisation in the country – Geeta Jain, the former mayor of Mira-Bhayander Municipal Corporation; Archana Rupwate, an activist-lawyer; among others, were informed that the modified draft guidelines for inmates and prison staff were submitted by the state government in the previous hearing.
Senior advocate Mihir Desai, who appeared on behalf of PUCL, took note of the state government’s modified draft guidelines, but prayed for conducting a mass test for inmates because of the spike in Covid-19 positive cases in Maharashtra, the worst-affected state in the country as far as the pandemic is concerned.
The petitioners also submitted that the lower courts were not abiding by the recommendations of the High Power Committee (HPC), leading to growing pendency of several pleas for interim bail and parole of inmates, who are vulnerable to contracting SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, because of unhygienic conditions in prisons.
The court directed the state authorities to update its portal regularly on the health condition of inmates and also ordered senior counsel Milind Sathe, who appeared on behalf of HPC, to issue a circular to all district legal service authorities to assist lower courts to expedite the hearing of interim bail and parole pleas.
The HC will hear the case next on Tuesday.