Expressing concern over issues relating to construction around jails in the state, the Bombay High Court has given a week’s time to the state government to clarify whether its resolution dated December 4 last year will apply only to those buildings constructed after the resolution was passed or to also those which were constructed earlier.
A division bench of Justices Naresh Patil and V L Achliya was hearing a petition filed by 2008 Malegaon blast accused Major Ramesh Upadhyay.
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The judges said that protecting the right of inmates should be a matter of state’s priority. “Jails have to be one of state’s priority. It is a major issue just like roads, infrastructure, and the state should protect the basic human rights of prisoners,” said Justice Patil.
“They should be given proper food, books and fresh air to breathe,” he said, while expressing concern over overcrowding in jails. The state counsel informed the bench that Arthur Road Jail, in particular, was overcrowded.
On December 4, the state home department had come up with a Government Resolution (GR) to halt construction within 500 m etresof jails.
As far as meeting in relation to implementation of the GR goes, Justice Achliya suggested to the state government that apart from having officials from the state Home department, even officials from the Urban Development department should take part in it.
Appearing for City and Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco), advocate G S Hegde argued that the state’s policy should be made prospective to ensure that permission for development was not given to new projects, else there would be flood of petitions in the court challenging the policy. He also said two projects undertaken by the development authority would be affected.
The bench, however, asked him to give a list of all under-construction buildings and stop-work notice issued by Cidco at the behest of the state.
A different HC bench had asked the state government to stop the ongoing construction of buildings located within 500 metres of Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai until its new policy to ban development around prisons is in place. The court also asked the superintendent of Taloja jail, state revenue department and Cidco to do a survey of all under-construction buildings located within 500 metres of Taloja jail within three weeks, and file a report to the government.
Upadhyay had written to the Bombay HC raising concerns about existing and under-construction high-rises that pose a security threat to jail inmates.
The court had converted the letter into a suo motu petition, appointed advocate Shubdha Khot as amicus curaie (friend of the court) to assist in the matter.