The Bombay High Court bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni on Thursday told the Maharashtra government to concentrate as to why the number of Covid19 cases have increased among inmates despite the authorities taking a slew of measures to stop the spread of the virus. The HC has further ordered the government to consider allotting some doses from the 2 lakh doses it is slated to receive by Thursday evening, for inmates.
The bench was hearing a suo motu PIL it had taken up on the basis of the coverage of Free Press Journal on the sudden surge in Covid cases in prison.
On Thursday, the state through chief public prosecutor Deepak Thakare submitted a note stating that the number of cases among inmates continue to rise while the ones among jail staff have come down.
Thakare further pointed out that 141 prisoners were released from various prisons till May 12. He said that steps are being taken to further decongest the jails.
"Number of Covid cases are coming down so why inmates are getting infected? Have you tried to identify the cause of this?" Justice Kulkarni sought to know.
The judges further noted that the state hasn't submitted the data specifying the number of symptomatic, asymptomatic patients and also those who have been kept on ventilators and oxygen.
One inmate each is hospitalised at Mumbai, kolhapur, Wardha and Buldhana, the prosecutor told the judges.
"Despite all these steps the numbers have increased. You should concentrate on why the numbers are rising in jails," the judges said.
The bench further noted that the state hasn't filled up the vast number of vacant posts of medical staff and said it could be "dangerous."
Thakare replied that the state health department has assured to fill the vacant posts soon.
"It is the state's obligations especially when you have sanctioned posts then why to ask a court to order you to fill the posts," the judges said.
During the hearing, senior counsel Mihir Desai for intervenors in the case told the bench that the state must be ordered to increase the vaccination for inmates.
Having heard this, the bench sought to know from state counsel Geeta Shastri about the status of vaccines in the state.
Shastri submitted that total 2.3 crore citizens have been vaccinated in the state out of the total 11.5 crore population. "We are going to get more 2 lakh vaccines by Thursday evening," she said.
"Can some of these 2 lakh doses be allotted for inmates? Remember they too are entitled for a protected life," the chief justice pointed out.