1,414 inmates above the age of 60, State tells HC

425 of them have co-morbidities

The State government has informed the Bombay High Court that as of Friday, 1,414 inmates lodged in prisons across the State are above the age of 60, while 425 of them have co-morbidities.

Advocate General (AG) Ashutosh Kumbhakoni told a Division Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice M.S. Karnik that as on May 11, there were 1,340 inmates above 60 years, and as of June 26, the number was 1,414. The court expressed surprised over the numbers, to which the AG replied crime rate has not decreased.

Mr. Kumbhakoni also said the current prison staff members will go to temporary prisons too, and that they have not been able to recruit more staff for the 36 locations identified as temporary prisons.

The Bench was hearing three separate public interest litigations, including one filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties seeking decongestion of prisons. It had sought information on the health status of convicts and undertrials in the prisons, especially Arthur Road jail, which is the worst-affected among the six prisons which have reported COVID-19 cases among inmates. The other five are Yerwada, Taloja, Dhule, Satara and Byculla prisons.

Some of the details sought include the capacity of temporary prisons, the number of beds available, total square foot area available per inmate, list of inmates kept in temporary prisons, number of rooms, prisoners per room, and number of bathrooms.

In the last hearing, senior advocate Mihir Desai and advocate Isha Khandelwal had submitted a 19-page document with various demands related to prisoners’ health in the pandemic. It said that prisoners must be tested before being shifted from one jail to another. All prisoners and staff from facilities where inmates have tested positive must be tested. Priority should be given to inmates and staff older than 50 years of age, and those with co-morbidities and other vulnerabilities.

It said each and every prisoner should be allowed one video or phone call per week with a family member or lawyer for 10 minutes, as opposed to two minutes. Prison authorities should update family members and lawyers of prisoners who test positive or have COVID-19 symptoms within a day.

On Friday, both parties made final arguments, and the court reserved the matter for orders.

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Printable version | Jul 13, 2020 10:40:45 AM |

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