Mumbai, Apr 17 (ILNS) Taking suo motu cognisance of the media reports on the rising number of COVID-19 cases in prisons across Maharashtra, the Bombay High Court on Friday directed the state government to provide details about the number of the inmates and the prison staff infected with the virus and their health status.
The Division Bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and CV Bhadang directed the respondents to furnish information on the status of COVID-19 cases, the measures being taken and proposed to be taken to control the spread of the Virus and measures to decongest the jails in the state.
The respondents include the State of Maharashtra through the Secretary (Home Department), the Secretary (Revenue Department), the Director General of Police, and the Director General of Prisons.
The Bench observed, “Newspaper reports have highlighted an alarming rise in the COVID-19 cases in the last few days in the prisons in the State of Maharashtra. It is reported that almost 200 prisoners amongst 47 prisons in the state have tested positive, as of April 14, 2021. This number has gone up from 42 to 200 within nearly a month. It is stated that 86 staff members working in the prisons have also tested positive.”
The Bench said that Advocate General AA Kumbhakoni has informed that the Court had taken up a similar cause in July, 2020, where the measures taken by the state government were noted and certain directions were issued.
The Advocate General said that the current situation will have to be dealt with similarly. The reports, however, show a sudden rise in COVID-19 cases in the state prisons, indicating a need for the Court’s intervention to revisit the measures.
This is a fit case, where the Court should take note of this situation and take up the cause in the public interest, the Bench said, adding that the sudden rise in cases indicated a need for the Court’s intervention to revisit the measures, and directed the Registry to register the Suo Motu (Criminal) Public Interest Litigation under Rule 4 of the Bombay High Court Public Interest Litigation Rules, 2010. The matter will be heard on April 20. ILNS/SNG/RJ