Will only test prisoners with comorbidities initially: State to HCUpdated: Jun 27, 2020, 00:44 IST
The state government has informed the Bombay high court (HC) that it has planned to provide rapid antigen testing for inmates with comorbid conditions depending on the availability of the test kits. The advocate general submitted that as inmates were relatively safe in the confines of the prison, testing kits would be deployed in high-risk areas on a priority. The state made the submissions in response to a clutch of petitions seeking various reliefs for prison inmates after Covid positive cases emerged across prisons in the state.
A division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice MS Karnik, while hearing through video conferencing PILs filed by People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), an NGO and individuals like politician Geeta Jain, activist and lawyer Archana Rupwate among others, was informed by petitioners that they had prepared a list of suggestions and objections to the draft modified guidelines submitted by the state in the previous hearing.
Senior advocate Mihir Desai for PUCL said the state’s assurance in the guidelines that regular thermal screening of inmates would be conducted and only those inmates having fever, breathing problems and other symptoms would be subjected to swab tests was not sufficient and there should be mass testing of inmates. The petitioners also submitted that the lower courts were not abiding by the recommendations of the high-power committee (HPC), as a result of which many applications for interim bail and parole were pending.
AG Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, while responding to the suggestion of mass testing inmates, said the state was awaiting rapid antigen testing kits and once the kits were available it would be used for testing inmates and jail staff. He, however, added that as the kits were required on a priority in high-risk zones, it would not be possible to conduct mass testing of inmates, and added that only inmates with comorbidities would undergo the rapid antigen test initially.
After hearing the submissions, the court directed the state to update its website on the status of the inmates regularly and also directed senior counsel Milind Sathe, representing the HPC, to issue a circular to all district legal service authorities to assist lower courts to expedite the hearing of interim bail and parole applications and posted the matter for order on Tuesday, June 30.