Mumbai: The Bombay High Court bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni, while hearing a suo motu public interest litigation (PIL) petition on the rise of COVID-19 cases inside prisons in the State taken on the basis of reportage in the Free Press Journal and another English national daily, on Wednesday questioned the lack of doctors in Maharashtra prisons.
The issue was raised after the bench went through an affidavit submitted by the State and found that the affidavit was silent on the issue of staffing.
“What about the doctor's issue at correctional homes? We had asked you to ensure prison manual is implemented in letter and spirit, as far as it provides for medical doctors in the jails. Your affidavit is absolutely silent on this issue,” noted Chief Justice Datta.
“In these difficult times, one-third of the posts for doctors is vacant,” further noted Chief Justice Datta.
The bench then noted that Nagpur, Yerwada, Kolhapur, Amravati, Thane and Taloja jails had no doctors.
“What is the total number of inmates in Yerwada jail?” the bench asked.
When state public prosecutor Deepak Thakre responded that Yerwada had 5,907 inmates, the bench questioned, “So for these many inmates there is not even a single doctor?"
"It is already more than a year Mr Thakare. You cannot rely on Sassoon or other civil hospitals and must have a proper facility within the prisons,” the bench said.
Chief Justice Datta then questioned, “Isn't it your duty to fill up the sanctioned posts? We aren't asking you to increase the sanctioned posts.”
For 47 prisons across the State, Maharashtra prisons have only 32 doctors which includes only two doctors who are MBBS. Of the sanctioned 175 posts for the medical branch, 112 posts are filled while 63 posts were still vacant. Maharashtra prisons is short of 2 psychologists, 2 psychiatrists, 1 Class-1 medical officer, 11 Class II & III medical officers, 13 compounders, 30 nursing orderly and four lab technicians.
The bench has ordered the state prosecutor to file a proper affidavit on the next date of hearing, which is on next Wednesday.