The PIL seeks that the state be directed to ensure safety of all prisoners currently lodged in Arthur Road Jail, and also prisons across Maharashtra, in view of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The Maharashtra government told Bombay High Court on Friday that it had come up with a set of draft guidelines for providing medical safeguards to prison inmates across the state in view of the COVID-19 outbreak. Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni told a bench led by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta that prison authorities will conduct daily thermal screening for all inmates, and those who show symptoms of coronavirus will be quarantined. Such inmates, staff etc who might have come in direct contact with COVID-19 patients, or those who might have spent at least 15 minutes with a COVID-19 inmate will be tested for coronavirus, the state submitted.
“The state also said it will provide all required medical facilities in prisons,” said senior counsel Mihir Desai. The state’s submissions were made after HC observed in a previous hearing last week that prisons revealed a “very sorry state of affairs”, considering the low rates of testing and lack of quarantine facilities. The court is hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed through advocate Desai by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties and other individual petitioners. The PIL seeks that the state be directed to ensure safety of all prisoners currently lodged in Arthur Road Jail, and also prisons across Maharashtra, in view of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
In previous hearings, Desai has been highlighting the lack of adequate testing and medical safeguards for prison inmates. As per the state’s records, four persons have died of coronavirus in three separate prisons in Maharashtra, and that they were tested for COVID-19 after their death. HC has now asked the petitioners to go through the draft guidelines and respond to the same.