Blaming the prison authorities for the death of an undertrial in Kolhapur six years ago, the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (MSHRC) has ordered the state to improve medical health services for inmates in all jails.
The MHSHRC order issued last week requires the state to make immediate arrangements to appoint regular doctors in state prisons.
While norms and guidelines of the United Nations Commission of Human Rights and the National Human Rights Commission require the state to post a permanent medic with sufficient support staff, medical equipment and medicines, the MSHRC has observed that these norms had been blatantly violated in the case of the district prison in Kolhapur.
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It has ordered the state authorities to examine the observance of norms across other prisons too, while directing them to immediately rectify the situation in Kolhapur. The case dates back to on December 17, 2010, when an undertrial, Basappa Patil, died in judicial custody in the Kolhapur jail. “Patil (then 45) was arrested by the Kolhapur’s Gandhi Nagar Police on December 14 over charges of rash driving and wrongful restraint and was remanded in judicial custody,” the MSHRC order reads.
It adds, “Reports show that on admission he was sent for medical checkup and the examining doctor of the Kolhapur civil hospital certified him as fit for judicial custody. But the Prison Superintendent noticed swelling on his legs and referred him back to the civil hospital. On re-examination, the civil hospital medics suspected Patil had an ailment connected to the liver. He was sent back to the prison after being prescribed medicine.”
Records show that the jail staff had reported worsening of Patil’s condition to the the jail superintendent the next day, but citing unavailability of police escort, the latter decided against immediately shifting him to hospital. “The jail superintendent took the view that the patient can be shifted to the hospital on December 18,” the order says.
Patil was eventually rushed to the hospital when his condition turned serious on December 17 but he died the same day. Citing “serious lapses” on part of the medical officer of the civil hospital and the jail superintendent, the MSHRC has rapped the state for the absence of a medical officer in the jail hospital.
The state has been asked to award a compensation of Rs 1 lakh to Patil’s next of kin within the next four weeks, observing that the “negligence on the part of the medical officer and the jail superintendent had contributed to the deterioration of Patil’s health resulting in his death”.
The state has also been asked to issue directives to authorities across all prisons that ailments of prisoners should be taken seriously and there should be no delay in shifting those with serious health problems to hospitals.