It Is The Duty Of The State Govt To Provide Medical Treatment To Inmates/Prisoners In Need: Bombay HC [Read Judgment]

It Is The Duty Of The State Govt To Provide Medical Treatment To Inmates/Prisoners In Need: Bombay HC [Read Judgment]

The Bombay High Court has held that it is the duty of the state to provide free medical assistance to any inmate or prisoner.

A division bench of Acting Chief Justice VK Tahilramani and Justice MS Sonak disposed off the petition for parole filed by one Ajaysingh Dahiya and held that the prison authorities and the state will continue to provide necessary medicines, injections and treatment to the petitioner free of cost and if found necessary, the petitioner will be admitted in the hospital.

Dahiya is suffering from multiple sclerosis and has been lodged in Mumbai Central Prison. Dahiya’s medical report from JJ Hospital shows that he has been advised Avonex injection every week and if he misses, symptoms might reoccur.

The injection is expensive, each unit costs Rs.10,000, which Dahiya or his family cannot afford. They have been asked by the hospital authorities to purchase the said injection. However, Dahiya’s lawyer Ujwal Agandsurve submitted that since his client was in custody, it was the duty of the state to pay for his treatment.

Thus, the court examined the position of law set by the Supreme Court in such a scenario by looking at three different cases-

(i) In Pt. Parmanand Katara vs. Union of India and ors., (1989) 4 SCC 286, the Supreme Court has held that Article 21 of the Constitution casts the obligation on the state to preserve life. The patient could be an innocent person or be a criminal liable to punishment under the laws of the society, but it is the obligation of those who are in charge of the health of the community to preserve life.

(ii)    In Rama Murthy vs. State of Karnataka, (1997) 2 SCC 642, the Supreme Court, after reference to the recommendations in the Mulla Committee report, had held that the society has an obligation towards prisoner's health for two reasons. First, the prisoners do not enjoy access to the medical expertise that free citizens have. Their incarceration places limitation of such access; no physician of choice, no second opinion, and few, if any, specialists. Secondly, because of the conditions of their incarceration, inmates are exposed to more health hazards than free citizens. Prisoners therefore, suffer from a double handicap.

(iii)  Even recently, in Re-Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons, (2017) 10 SCC 658, the Supreme Court reiterated that providing medical facilities to inmates in prisons is a human right. State governments were directed to state the availability of medical assistance to the prisoners and take remedial steps wherever necessary.

The State, in such circumstances, cannot avoid its responsibility or require the petitioner or his relatives to arrange for such medicines, particularly when there is material on record which indicates that neither the petitioner nor his relatives are really in a position to afford such medicines,” the court said.

Thereafter, all of the petitioner’s medical bills and treatment costs have been borne by the state. The court has directed the state to continue to do so.

Read the Judgment Here