Observing that the inmates have a right to live in a safe environment just like the ones outside the prison, the Bombay High Court has ordered the Maharashtra government to come up with a policy decision to tackle the situation and to ensure that the coronavirus does not further spread in any other prisons across the state. The HC has ordered the authorities to take care of the inmates, especially those who are senior citizens and are suffering from other ailments and are prone to getting affected by coronavirus.
A bench of Justice Bharati Dangre also ordered the jail authorities to ensure that the virus does not spread further in the Arthur Road jail due to overcrowding.
The judge was hearing a plea filed by a 43-year-old inmate, who is suffering from diabetes, hypertension and high blood pressure, seeking release on medical grounds. He argued that he is vulnerable and can get afflicted with the virus easily as more than 70 inmates and staffers of the Arthur Road prison have tested positive of coronavirus.
Taking note of the submission, Justice Dangre said that there is no doubt that the situation is precarious and the inmates may be justified in apprehending that he can be exposed to the virus in view of nearly 77 inmates and staffers testing positive.
"In any contingency, it is for the government and the policy makers to take a decision in light of the latest development. If it is true that more than 100 inmates and staffers, have been tested positive in Arthur Road jail, it is for the authorities to arrange for their affairs and to ensure that the inmates who are presently housed in the jail are not infected by the virus on account of over-crowding," Justice Dangre said.
"The authorities need not be reminded of the 'Right of Inmates' of a safe and healthy environment, as even while in incarceration, they equally enjoy right to life as those in outside world," Justice Dangre held.
The judge further expressed hope that the jail authorities would be sensitive to the situation and would take appropriate measures to contain the virus.
"There are inmates in the prison who are more than 60 years of age and presently languishing in jail and more prone to the virus. Thus, it is open for the government and jail authorities to take appropriate policy decision to tackle the situation to keep all the inmates safe and ensure that there is no further spread of virus in the jail," Justice Dangre held.
As far as the inmate, who had petitioned the bench is concerned, Justice Dangre noted that he had not placed on record any document depiction the aggravation of diabetes or other ailments. The bench, accoridngly, rejected his plea to release him immediately.