Updated: May 13, 2021 11:27:23 am
While directing the state prison authorities to abide by the new standard operating procedures (SOPs) recommended by the high-powered committee in regard to decongesting jails in light of the second wave of Covid-19, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday asked the Maharashtra government to expeditiously fill up vacant posts of medical officers and staffers in correctional homes and jail hospitals. The court also asked the prison authorities to follow the Union government’s SOP on vaccinating inmates, including those not having Aadhaar cards.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni was hearing a suo motu PIL filed based on news reports highlighting the alarming rise in Covid-19 cases in the last two months in Maharashtra prisons.
Noting that as per the state’s reply, nearly one-third of posts of medical officers across Maharashtra jails were lying vacant, the court said that while all prisons should have requisite and able medical staff, the state’s reply was “absolutely silent” on the issue.
“We are not asking you to increase the number of sanctioned posts. At least fill up the existing posts. Already one year of pandemic is over and you cannot depend on already burdened state-run hospitals,” it added.
As per state prison authorities, jail staff were considered frontline workers and out of 3818 prison staff members across 46 jails, 3252 were vaccinated. It also said that so far the state government has been able to set up 40 temporary prisons across Maharashtra to decongest jails.
It also said that 10,161 inmates above 18 years of age have Aadhar cards.
The state government said that HPC held its meetings on May 7 and 11 passing further directions on decongestion of jails. As per HPC, 12,751 pleas pending before various courts for interim bail of eligible prisoners are to be decided by May 20 along with all pending emergency parole pleas. The committee decided that 3182 prisoners, whose interim bail applications were rejected may apply afresh. It added that 1182 convicts entitled for interim bail complying with the requisite conditions laid down in various decisions of HC shall also be released within 10 days.
The court will hear the matter next on May 19.
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