There is no prohibition on lodging prisoners with HIV/AIDS along with other inmates of a prison and hence there was no necessity to quarantine such patients, according to C. Kannan, Superintendent of the Madurai Central Prison.
He made the submission in a counter affidavit filed before the Madras High Court Bench here in reply to a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed by a lawyer who claimed that people with AIDS ought to have been lodged in separate cells.
“The government as well as medical experts have declared that AIDS is not infectious and persons affected by HIV/AIDS should not be separated from others. A similar opinion is expressed by the prison medical officer too," the Superintendent said.
A Division Bench comprising Justice Chitra Venkataraman and Justice M. Duraiswamy dismissed the PIL petition after accepting the statement made by the official. “We do not find any justification to grant the prayer in the present petition,” they said.
Mr. Kannan, however, admitted that the Central prison here was overcrowded. Stating that steps were being taken to ease the congestion, he denied allegations that overcrowding had lead to inhumane treatment of the inmates.
As on August 21, 2009, a total of 1,528 prisoners (including 797 convicts, 662 remand prisoners and those facing trials and 69 persons detained under the Goondas Act) were lodged in the prison as against the authorised capacity of 1,252 inmates.
“Though the Madurai Central Prison is overcrowded, the condition in the prison is not inhuman and the prisoners are provided with all basic amenities like food, shelter, water, clothes, medical treatment and recreational facilities,” the official said.
He pointed out that two sub-jails in Dindigul and Virudhunagar had been upgraded as district jails recently thereby reducing new admissions in the Madurai prison. A sub-jail in Ramanthapuram district would also be upgraded soon.
The Superintendent further said, "Prisoners who are found to be mentally ill are being separated from other prisoners and guarded properly. They are not allowed to mingle with other healthy prisoners.”
He also said the Principal District Judge, the Chief Judicial Magistrate and the Joint Director of Health Services who visited the prison on several occasions between July 12, 2008 and March 21, 2009, had recorded their satisfaction over the facilities available.