June 17, 2020 2:49:12 am
Observing that the report submitted by state prisons department on jails ‘reveals very sorry state of affairs”, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday sought to know from the Maharashtra government details on the number of undertrials or convicts presently lodged in all correctional homes across Maharashtra, number of inmates over 60 years of age, diseases, if any, from which such senior citizen inmates are suffering from and capacity of each correctional home to accommodate undertrials or convicts.
The court also observed that only 1,342 applications for temporary bail are pending in Maharashtra as per Supreme Court and state high-powered committee guidelines to decongest jails in view of Covid-19 pandemic and directed the subordinate courts including district and sessions courts to dispose of pending applications in expeditious manner in accordance with the law.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice K K Tated was hearing through videoconference pleas moved by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) – through senior counsel Mihir Desai and advocates Isha Khandelwal and Kritika Agarwal – and other petitioners, Geeta Bharat Jain, Archana Rupawate.
On June 12, the court had asked the state government to file a compliance report on the health status of inmates and testing and quarantine facilities provided to them amid Covid-19 outbreak.
The state through Inspector General (Prisons) Sunil Ramanand also submitted that mass swab testing of asymptomatic inmates may not be undertaken until it is assured that quarantine facilities would be provided. The department in compliance report added that three prisoners – one each in Yerawada, Taloja and Dhule jails – were found Covid-19 positive after they died. Moreover, an undertrial at Taloja jail who died by suicide on May 27 tested positive later. After perusing the state’s response, the bench noted, “The report reveals a very sorry state of affairs.”
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