April 30, 2021 1:39:10 am
Expressing concern over the recent deaths of two prisoners and a jail staff in Maharashtra due to Covid-19, the Bombay High Court on Thursday questioned the authorities on the availability of qualified medical staff in prison hospitals and asked the Centre and the state government if it was mandatory for prison inmates to have Aadhaar cards before they get vaccinated.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni was hearing a suo motu public interest litigation (PIL) based on news reports highlighting alarming rise in Covid-19 cases in last two months in prisons across the state.
On Thursday, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, representing the state government, informed the court that there were nearly 244 active Covid-19 cases among prisoners and over 170 cases among the jail staff across prisons in Maharashtra.
Insisting that the state is taking all measures to prevent further spread of the infection, he said that 64,000 Covid-19 tests, including repeat tests on the same prisoners, have been conducted in prisons across the state so far.
There are 35,124 inmates lodged in various jails across Maharashtra.
The Court pointed out that in Taloja Central prison, only three Ayurvedic doctors were presently available and no medical officers or other staff as required under Prison Rules, 2015 are appointed.
“Is this a situation only pertaining to Taloja jail or in other jails as well?” the HC asked, adding the issue was of serious concern and required attention.
Professor Vijay Raghavan, member of Centre for Criminology and Justice, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), who has closely worked on prisoners’ issues and is assisting the court in the matter, informed the HC that inmates who did not have Aadhaar cards were not able to avail vaccinations.
The court observed that Aadhaar card may be important for maintaining nation-wide database of vaccinations and said, “If an Aadhar card is coming in the way, then let Aadhar registration camps be organised and such cards be issued.”
The court further said, “The Aadhar for vaccination is a pan-India issue. Some solution has to be found out by the central government too.”
The HC posted the matter on May 4 for further hearing.
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