Updated: March 17, 2020 11:32:24 pm
Stating its proximity to Kasturba Hospital, where COVID-19 patients are being quarantined, Mumbai’s largest prison, Arthur Road Jail, has stopped inmates from meeting their lawyers and families till March 31. The decision by the superintendent of the jail, Nitin Waichal, will be effective Wednesday.
State Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said every inmate will undergro medical check-ups while every new prisoner will be made to undergo screening for COVID-19 before being lodged.
An advisory by the Maharashtra Prison Department had directed precautions to be taken by superintendents against coronavirus with suggestions from municipal or district authorities.
“Though there is a buffer zone on the premises of the hospital opposite the jail where tests for COVID-19 are being conducted, we did not want to take any risks. If any inmate is affected, it will be difficult to contain though all preparations, including an isolation ward, are being taken,” an official from Arthur Road jail said.
There are 3,800 inmates at Arthur Road jail, which is a male-only prison with a capacity of 800. Most of them are undertrials.
Called mulaqats, the visits by family members are allowed once a week, while lawyers can meet their clients for 15-30 minutes in the morning hours. Family members are required to get verification documents from their local police station along with court’s permission and other relevant documents and submit them to the prison authorities on each visit. The inmates are separated from family members by a glass panel and they can speak to each other for 20 minutes through intercom.
“Usually, family members queue up for a few hours outside the prison gates, leading to crowds. We explained to the inmates that this can jeopardise and put them as well as their family members at risk. So, the restrictions are being put in place,” said the jail official.
On Monday, as per the directions of the registrar general of the Bombay High Court, authorities are directed not to produce undertrials before court for hearings. If necessary, undertrials can be produced through video-conferencing, the circular said.
Over the past week, more than 300 prisoners, including all new entrants, have been shifted from Arthur Road jail, Thane and Kalyan jails to Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai. An official from Taloja jail said jail authorities discussed with inmates on imposing similar restrictions on mulaqat till next week and a decision will be taken on it by Thursday. Officials said other precautions, including awareness and better sanitation facilities like soaps and water drums, have been placed at the entrance and inside circles of the prisons. “On Monday, when inmates left for court, they were given masks to wear,” an official said.
“We have seen instances of violence in some parts of the country where restrictions were put in place on prisons due to COVID-19. While the safety of prisoners is important, in our overcrowded prisons, it becomes important to ensure that the inmates do not get frustrated without any information about their family members or the outside world at such times, when they would also be worried. Instead of completely shutting down access, maybe a limited number of visitors or at least lawyers be allowed to meet inmates after thorough checks,” said a lawyer.
A prison reform committee, in its report submitted to the state government in 2018, had said there should be one counsellor for every 50-60 prisoners, which is not the case currently with vacancies for counsellors not filled. The committee’s recommendations are yet to be implemented.
Coronavirus impact: Maharashtra’s only Ro-Ro pax managed just 5 services in three days
Maharashtra’s first Roll-on/Roll-off service, which started between Ferry Wharf in Mumbai and Mandwa in Alibaug on Sunday, ran only five services over the past three days.
A total of 240 passengers and 40 cars travelled on the ferry on the first day. On Monday, no passengers turned up and the service remained shut. On Tuesday, one service ran in both directions with 200 commuters and 30 vehicles.
According to the schedule of operations, four Ro-Ro services were supposed to operate daily, two from both the directions.
The Ro-Ro service was started by M2M Ferries Private Limited (MFLP) along with Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) and Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT).
Sunday : 3 services
Monday : 0 services
Tuesday: 2 services
Coronavirus impact: Maha RERA hearings adjourned till March 31
All hearings before the Maharashtra Real Estate Regulatory Authority (MahaRERA) and adjudicating officers have been postponed till March 31 due to the coronavirus pandemic, as per a circular dated March 16. Except very urgent cases, all cases scheduled from March 16 to March 31 are being rescheduled.
The MahaRERA was formed to dissolve disputes between realtors and homebuyers. Since May 1, 2017, at least 10,814 complaints, 25,229 projects and 23,699 agents have been registered under MahaRERA. Orders have been passed in as many as 7,777 complaints.
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