Mahrashtra human rights panel holds Thane prison responsible in custodial death

Orders IG (Prisons) to make thorough check-up of prisoners mandatory

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai | Published:November 28, 2016 1:59 am
At the mental hospital in Thane. There are no reliable figures on the number of the mentally ill in India.  (Express Photo by Amol Shetge/Archive) “There was complaint of severe breathlessness and sweating,” shows the medical records available with the prison. (Express File Photo by Amol Shetge/Archive)

Holding the Thane prison responsible for not conducting a proper health screening of a prisoner who later died due to a pre-existing heart condition, the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (MSHRC) has issued orders to the Inspector General of Prisons to make it mandatory to conduct a thorough check-up of prisoners and take immediate action in cases of custodial deaths across all prisons in the state.

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A bench of MSHRC Chairperson Justice S R Bannurmath and member M A Sayeed heard a complaint filed by the family of Navab Madansingh Rathod, a prisoner who succumbed to heart ailment on May 21, 2010, while in custody at Thane prison.

Rathod was in custody from March 2010. On May 8, 2010, he complained of body ache and giddiness and was treated on out-patient department basis. On May 19, his condition worsened and he was referred to Thane Civil Hospital and later to JJ Hospital.

“There was complaint of severe breathlessness and sweating,” shows the medical records available with the prison.

On May 21, Rathod passed away with an enlarged heart; he already had an artificial valve. The MSHRC observed that the prison had not conducted a thorough health check-up of Rathod. In his medical form, the prison medical officer had filled in a “No” for details of any existing health problems. No cardiac tests were conducted on him. “It shows total negligent or indifferent/casual attitude on the part of prison medical officer. It is to be noted that at the time of admission to the prison itself the deceased was suffering from serious heart ailments, the health screening report does not indicate the same,” said the order.

The MSHRC indicated that this is a serious lapse on part of the jail authorities to also not inform Rathod’s family about his hospitalisation. His mother was informed after he died at JJ hospital.

The commission has now written to the state principal health secretary to submit an action taken report within six weeks on the case. The IG (Prisons) has been directed to ensure families of ill prisoners are notified about their health periodically. “Whenever a prisoner is brought in, it is part of protocol to conduct thorough health analysis. This must have been one case where the medical officer missed,” Rajwardhan Sinha, IG (Prisons), told The Indian Express, adding that detailed tests such as electro-cardiogram or cardiac tests are not done routinely unless a prisoner complains of an existing ailment.

When contacted, Nitin Yachal, Superintendent of Thane prison, said he has not yet received the order of human rights commissioner.

An earlier report by the human rights commission had also observed overcrowding in prisons across the state and need for upgradation of facilities for prisoners.