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Odisha high court orders decongesting of jails, directs the govt. buildings’ conversion into temporary prisons

According to State’s prison administration sources, at least 887 inmates were found to be positive from 1 May till 1 June.

Statesman News Service | Bhubaneswar |

Expressing deep concern over the surge in COVID-19 infections in jails, the Orissa High Court has directed the State government to expedite measures to decongest the overcrowded prisons and formulate a comprehensive action plan to keep the contagion at bay.

In response to public interest litigation, a division Bench comprising the Chief Justice S Muralidhar and Justice Savitri Ratho asked the prison authorities of the State government to relocate the inmates of overcrowded jails to less crowded jails to contain the virus infection.

The government buildings may also be converted into temporary prisons to lodge the prisoners keeping in view virus infection outbreak in jails across the State, the court ruled in an order yesterday.

“The state government will prepare an action plan to transfer inmates from the overcrowded jails to the spacious ones. In case of unavailability of spacious jails, the authorities would utilize other buildings to house under-trial prisoners after due development”, the HC in its ruling directed.

“This could be (materialized) by upgrading other state buildings/facilities to meet the requirements of prisons”, the HC order maintained.

“At least six jails including the district jail in Phulbani, the special sub-jail in Bhadrak and the sub-jails in Jajpur, Nayagarh, Parlakhemundi and Malkangiri. The situation in the Bhadrak special sub-jail is particularly acute where against the capacity of 166 there are over 430 prisoners. In a time of Covid-19 Pandemic, this can also pose a serious risk to the health and safety of the prisoners as well as the jail staff,” the court said, expressing concern over possible COVID outbreak.

The High Court also directed the district legal service authorities and district collectors to undertake surprise visits of the jails and furnish fact-finding reports on the state of affairs in the jails.

According to State’s prison administration sources, at least 887 inmates were found to be positive from 1 May till 1 June. Of the 87 jails in the State, as many as 53 of them have far been COVID-free and have not reported a single positive case during the second wave of the pandemic.

In a step to decongest the jails, 974 prisoners have so far been released on bail or parole in accordance with courts’ order. Currently, the 87 jails in the State house 18,580 inmates as against the full capacity 19,824.