The Maharashtra government has told the Bombay High Court that it has finally completed formalities to acquire land for a new prison complex here, four years after it made the proposal. As per an affidavit submitted in the high court by the Maharashtra government yesterday, the city collector will hand over around 52,000 sq mt plot at Mandale village near Mankhurd to the state by next month for the construction of the new prison. The construction of the new prison was proposed by the Maharashtra government in 2014 to tackle overcrowding in the existing prisons in and around Mumbai. As per the affidavit, the state home department, the revenue department, and other stakeholders met on January 3. All formalities were completed during the meeting and the state revenue minister directed the city collector to hand over the 52,000 sq.m. plot within a month’s time.
Appearing for the state, advocate Anil Sakhre informed the court that the Public Works Department had also been directed to appoint an architect and prepare the plan and estimates for the new construction. In the meantime, Sakhre said, the state had already begun constructing “eight new barracks at the Yerwada Central Jail premises in Pune since the prison has sufficient space” for the same. “All new construction at the Yerwada premises and the proposed site in Mankhurd will be done in line with the suggestions of the state’s prison reforms committee,” Sakhre said. The affidavit was filed in compliance with a previous order of the high court.
In February 2017, a bench led by Justice AS Oka had directed the Maharashtra government to set up a committee headed by a retired high court judge and experts as members to conduct a “scientific study on setting up a model prison with necessary infrastructure and steps to reduce overcrowding in jails.” Following the court’s order at the time, the state had conducted an inspection, which revealed that the Arthur road jail in Mumbai and the Yerwada jail were severely overcrowded. It had also revealed that the prisons across the state did not have adequate number of toilets and bathrooms, and that the male inmates often had to bathe in the open. In the women’s cell too, there were inadequate number of toilets and bathrooms. The inspection report had also said that these toilets were ill-maintained and dirty.
In the affidavit submitted on Friday, the state said that the central prisons in Mumbai, Pune, Thane, Aurangabad, and Nagpur required around 200 additional toilets, bathrooms, and bathing platforms. “We are carrying out repair work at the existing toilets and bathrooms. We will soon allocate funds for construction of new toilets and bathrooms too,” Sakhre said.
The court has now directed the state to submit by February 12 a chart detailing all repair and construction work that is proposed or currently being undertaken, the cost for the same, and the time that will be taken to complete all such work.