Vaccinate Arrested People Above 45 Years Before They Are Sent to Prison: Bombay HC
The Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra government to ensure all accused individuals above 45 years of age are vaccinated before they are imprisoned. The court further mandated compulsory Covid19 tests for all accused people, and said they should be sent to judicial custody only if their test results come back negative.
The two-judge bench, consisting of Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G.S. Kulkarni, said these steps are necessary to prevent the spread of Covid19 in the state’s prisons. The court took cognizance of the sharp surge in cases across Maharashtra’s jails: as of April 14 this year, almost 198 prisoners across 47 prisons tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
India’s prisons are overcrowded, with data showing nearly 70% of those arrested are still going through trials while they continue to languish in jails. Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, who appeared for the state government, stated that there were currently more than 35,000 inmates across 47 jails, even though the total capacity of these jails was only around 23,000. The congestion becomes concerning during the Covid19 pandemic, as experts highlight the heightened chances of transmission in closed quarters and unsanitary spaces.
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Previously, other measures taken to reduce the congestion in Maharashtra’s prisons involved the construction of 36 temporary prisons in educational institutes, releasing eligible inmates on emergency parole, continuing the parole of inmates who were currently out of prison, and ramping up vaccination programs for eligible prisoners and jail staff.
According to Livelaw, the bench said it issued these orders to, “… pave the way for saving the lives of the inmates of correctional homes and instill in them a sense of confidence that the State, of which the judiciary was a part, was also concerned about their well-being.”