After examining a report that showed a ratio of 17:1 of women prisoners to toilets and no privacy in Pune’s Yerawada jail, the Bombay High Court on Thursday directed the Mumbai sessions court to conduct an inquiry into the conditions of both the prisons and prisoners lodged at Mumbai’s Arthur Road prison and a women’s prison at Byculla.
The report, submitted by the additional district judge Pune, showcases a dearth in the most basic of human needs, leading to inhuman living conditions for inmates. Justices V M Kanade and Shalini Phansalkar Joshi read out from the report that the men’s prison can house 2,323 prisoners but in fact had 3,800 inmates having 2,887 of them at its main jail.
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“Obvious overcrowding of prisoners and the main jail the number of prisoners that are kept are almost double,” the court pointed out. Though the prisoners have 518 toilets, they are in deplorable condition. There are no bathrooms for all these men, forcing them all have a bath in the open. As on October 8 this year, there were 99 convicts lodged in the women prison besides 228 undertrials as opposed to the sanctioned capacity of 125 inmates. “Therefore, there is overcrowding,” the HC said.
The 327 women have a mere 19 toilets at their disposal. But those toilets require immediate repairs too, says the report. For all these women, there are two common bathrooms where 15 women take bath simultaneously, hence, no privacy.
The report, the HC observed, was silent on the quality of food. “Report says that the food is found to be properly cooked but it’s not mentioned if the food supplied is according to the prison manual,” the judges said.
In addition, the prison has 15 gangsters, resulting into a situation of serious threat. “Security staff is inadequate,” the HC said.
The report informs all these prisoners have only 15 windows to talk to their lawyers but there is a requirement of at least 30 windows. Sixteen children, the report reveals, are staying with their mothers inside the prison. “We would like to know if any arrangement is made to send them to school, if other female prisoners have any children who are not being looked after and also about the orphans who are in jail. Jail authorities should interview such women prisoners,” directed the court.
They further asked the government to examine the report and take initiative for maintaining and repairing toilets. “It should provide additional bathrooms and even making sure that male prisoners take bath in closed bathrooms. DGP prisons should file a report,” the HC ordered. The high court order of October 1 had ordered for the report while hearing a public interest litigation resenting time deficiency during their meeting with prisoners.