The Bombay High Court on Friday observed that inmates equally enjoy right to life for safety and healthy environment as those outside and asked the Maharashtra Government and Jail authorities to decide appropriate policy to tackle situation at Arthur Road Jail for safety of inmates and containment of COVID-19 outbreak in prisons.
A single-judge bench of Justice Bharati Dangre heard through video conference, a bail application plea filed by one Ali Akbar Shroff, one of the inmates at the prison, seeking release on temporary bail on medical grounds as per Supreme Court guidelines to decongest jails.
At least 77 inmates and 26 staffers at the Mumbai Central Jail, popularly known as the Arthur Road jail, have tested positive for COVID-19, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said on Thursday (May 7), a day after it emerged that one prisoner and two guards were infected.
Senior Counsel Aabad Ponda for bail applicant submitted that 43-year-old inmate suffered from diabetes, hypertension and high blood pressure. He claimed that nearly 103 persons including inmates and jail staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.
“He requires constant medical treatment and supervision. This medical condition, may prove fatal as his ailments are to be considered more susceptible to the Corona Virus. And therefore, he needs to be released on temporary bail,” Ponda submitted. Public Prosecutor Deepak Thakare opposed the plea.
After hearing submissions, Justice Dangre said that situation is no doubt is precarious and, in any contingency, it is for the State Government and the policy makers to take a decision in light of the latest development.
The Court noted, “If it is true that more than 100 patients have been tested positive in Arthur Road jail, it is for the Authorities to arrange for their affairs and to ensure that the inmates who are presently housed in the Jail are not infected by the virus on account of over-crowding in jails.”
It added, “The prisoners need not be reminded of the Right of Inmates of a safety and healthy environment as even while in incarceration they equally enjoy right to life as those in outside world. being affected by the patients who have been tested positive.”
Justice Dangre expressed concerns over prisoners’ health and said that jail authorities are expected to be sensitive and need to take appropriate steps to contain the spread of disease.
The judge observed, “There are inmates in the prison who are more than 60 years of age and presently languishing in jail and more prone to the virus as compared to the present applicant who has not placed on record any particular papers depicting the aggravation of diabetes and hypertension except that that he suffers from diabetes and hypertension.”
Justice Dangre said the state government can formulate policy to contain the outbreak and said, “It is open for the State Government and Jail authorities to take appropriate policy decision to tackle the situation to keep all the inmates safe and ensure that they shall contain the spread of virus in the jail.”
Refusing to grant release on temporary bail, the Court said, “Since no imminent health impediment is reflected in case of the present applicant, application is rejected.”
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