Refer inmates for testing: HC to prison authorities

Bombay High Court

Bombay High Court   | Photo Credit: PAUL NORONHA

The Bombay High Court on Thursday directed the State’s prison authorities to refer for testing any inmate displaying signs of physical discomfort, cough or cold, and also strictly follow all guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to contain the spread of COVID-19 in jails.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice M.S. Karnik also asked authorities to notify details of 37 temporary prisons on official prison websites, and immediately inform family members/close relatives of inmates about their health.

In a 40-page judgment, the Bench said, “Every possible endeavour shall be made by the prison authorities to scrupulously follow the guidelines issued from time to time by the ICMR, Central government as well as the State government and its authorities regarding the safety measures to be undertaken in correctional homes/temporary prisons for inmates.”

The court also said, “The prison authorities to refer any inmate for testing in case of any signs of physical discomfort like cough, cold, etc. The authorities are directed to notify details of 37 temporary prisons on the website and the family members/close relatives of inmates shall be immediately informed about his or her health condition relating to the infection of the coronavirus.”

‘Extra security in jails’

The State government assured the court that random testing will be done of inmates across jail/barracks and it shall endeavour to deploy sufficient/staff at correctional homes, temporary jails and quarantine centres or COVID-19 care centres.

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, representing the State government, said the standard operating procedure for the well-being and safety of inmates, as well as precautionary steps, will be revised at regular intervals after seeking domain experts’ inputs.

He said it may not be currently possible to test all inmates in jails across the State. Temporary prisons are located in schools and other municipal buildings which may lack the full security features of a regular jail. Therefore, from the point of view of security, it may not be possible to strictly follow the ICMR guidelines, he added.

The court noted that the guidelines issued by the Public Health Department need to be scrupulously followed by the correctional homes and temporary prison facilities. These guidelines include measures for maintaining hygiene, physical distancing, medical examination of inmates at regular intervals, and sending suspected cases for testing. Instructions have been issued for sanitising the residential quarters of the inmates and to examine those aged above 30 years for any other co-morbidities, the court said.

Judges said the guidelines also provide for precautions to be taken in respect of the new inmates, and also on dealing with sanitisation and hygiene protocol in the kitchens and toilets.

The Bench said, “We hope and trust that the State will continuously endeavour to improve upon the measures regarding the protocol to be followed in respect of health and well being of the inmates.”

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Printable version | Aug 13, 2020 3:35:27 AM |

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