April 23, 2021 1:42:40 am
Taking cognizance of the “prevailing critical Covid-19 situation” in the state prisons, the Bombay High Court on Thursday asked all the Magistrate Courts in Maharashtra to decide on at the earliest, preferably within 48 hours, applications made by the prison authorities to shift undertrial prisoners from crowded jails to less crowded ones.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni passed the order while hearing a suo motu PIL initiated last week based on news reports highlighting alarming rise in Covid-19 cases in the last two months in the prisons across Maharashtra.
On April 20, the court had asked the Maharashtra government to provide suggestions on measures that needed to be undertaken to control the surge.
The state government had informed the HC that currently in Maharashtra, about 35,124 prisoners are lodged across 47 jails, which have a capacity to house only around 23,217 inmates.
On Thursday, Advocate General for state government Ashutosh Kumbhakoni told the court that a judicial order was required for the concerned magistrates to hear the prison authorities before passing an order on transfer.
Commenting on the Covid-19 situation in prisons, the court said, “Even on Tuesday (last hearing), the situation was not as grim as today. It is getting worse by the day.”
The HC noted, “Having regard to the critical situation prevailing now, and in order to ensure that undertrial prisoners lodged in various correctional homes of the state may be required to be shifted to less-crowded correctional homes to achieve equal distribution, the state may proceed to decide on shifting some such prisoners with cogent reasons.” It added, “We have no doubt in our mind that if an application is made before the magistrate in this behalf with relevant particulars, the same shall be considered on its merits as early as possible and preferably within 48 hours…”
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