How many prisoners above 45 years are vaccinated, High Court asks Maharashtra government

The court also raised the issue about the vacancy of medical officers in prisons

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday asked the Maharashtra government to provide the number of how many jail inmates are above the age of 45 and how many of them have been vaccinated for COVID-19.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni was hearing a suo motu public interest litigation (PIL) petition concerning the increase of COVID-19 patients in prisons.

Advocate General (AG) Ashutosh Kumbhakoni told the court that 1,248 additional prisoners have been released. Of this, 121 were released on emergency parole. There were 11 additional temporary prisons and three additional COVID-19 care centres for prisoners. An additional 156 mobile phones have been purchased for inmates to call their families.

The court asked how many FIRs have been registered, how many arrested, what are the offences under which they have been arrested and are they below seven years of punishment?

“If they are first time offenders, driven by penury to commit a theft because livelihood is very important to fill the stomach and he steals food. For this, he is put behind bars. So we want to know the number of offenders and offences?” it said.

Vacancy of medical officers

“We are also worried about the vacancy of medical officers in prisons. Can an ad hoc arrangement be made from civil hospitals where a doctor can visit prisoners for two hours a day?”, it stated.

Mr. Kumbhakoni replied, “This is a subject matter of the State government and not the prison authorities. There used to be a weekly OPD in every prison where a gynaecologist, psychiatrist and other doctors would examine prisoners but that stopped due to the pandemic.”

On the subject of vaccinating prisoners, the court asked the AG, “How can you go about administering vaccines to senior citizens who are undertrials. We would also like to know how many inmates are above the age of 45 and how many of them are vaccinated.”

Vijay Raghavan, Professor at the Centre for Criminology and Justice School of Social Work at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, told the court that prisoners from the Kalyan, Byculla, Taloja and Arthur jails are taken to JJ Hospitals. The court interrupted and remarked, “The prison manual is so old and amendments need to be made about including civil hospitals to treat prisoners.”

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