The Bombay High Court on Tuesday observed that the report submitted by the Additional Director General Of Police (Prisons) reveals a sorry state of affairs as the report stated that four inmates of three different prisons in the State died and swab samples collected after their death revealed that they were Covid-19 positive.
One of the four dead was 33-year-old Balu Gadshinge, who committed suicide by hanging himself on May 27, 2020 in Taloja Central Prison.
Division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice KK Tated were hearing a batch of PILs with the lead PIL filed by People's Union for Civil Liberties raising the various issues facing inmates/undertrials in prisons across the State of Maharashtra.
As per the report submitted by Sunil Ramanand, ADGP and Inspector General of Prisons a total of 17, 695 screenings and 1681 swab tests were conducted in 10 prisons across Maharashtra and the ADGP office. Out of this, 269 inmates tested positive, 115 recovered and four died.
It was further submitted in the report that mass swab testing of asymptomatic prison inmates may not be undertaken until express assurance of a quarantine facility is given by the Municipal Commissioners/Collectors as many of the prisons in the state are overcrowded.
Court requested Advocate General AA Kumbhakoni to obtain appropriate instructions from the prison authorities on the points raised by petitioner's lawyer Senior Advocate Mihir. Desai as well as the point raised in the report of the ADG (Prisons) that there is insufficient space for quarantining those inmates of correctional homes, who test positive.
AG Kumbhakoni sought time till Friday to take instructions which was granted. Court directed Kumbhakoni to seek instruction regarding the number of undertrial prisoners/convicts presently lodged in all the correctional homes across Maharashtra; the number of inmates who are aged over 60 years; diseases, if any, from which such elderly inmates are suffering from; and also the capacity of each correctional home for accommodating undertrial prisoners/convicts.
The 5-page report also revealed that a letter dated June 14, 2020 issued by the ADG prisons has permitted Superintendents to purchase additional cellular phones with a view to enforcing the circular dated February 12, 2019 whereby inmates of prisons will be able to have wider interactions with family members.
Court referred to the concern voiced by Mihir Desai in the last hearing regarding the large number of pending bail applications of inmates scheduled to be released as per directions of the State High Power Committee constituted in compliance of Supreme Court's directions.
"We find that the instructions given to him were quite incorrect. It is not 11,857 applications but only 1,342 applications for temporary bail that are pending in all Courts across Maharashtra to avail the benefits of the High Powered Committee's recommendations. In that view of the matter, we see no reason to keep this issue pending for decision and close it with the observation that all such pending applications shall be disposed of as expeditiously as possible in accordance with law."
The next date of hearing is June 19, 2020.
Click Here To Download Order