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‘Inmates have right to safety,’ says Bombay HC, asks Maharashtra govt to tackle spread of COVID-19 at Arthur Road Jail

Early this week, at least 77 inmates and 26 personnel of Arthur Road Jail tested positive for coronavirus.

SNS | New Delhi |

As Maharashtra being worst hit by the Coronavirus outbreak, the Bombay High Court directed the state government to take an appropriate policy decision to tackle the spread of COVID-19 at Arthur Road Jail in the state capital Mumbai.

Early this week, at least 77 inmates and 26 personnel of Arthur Road Jail tested positive for coronavirus.

One of the Arthur Road jail prisoner Ali Akbar Shroff sought temporary bail on medical ground.

Justice Bharati Dangre on Friday, while hearing the bail application of Shroff,  noted that the situation was precarious and in such a contingency, the state government and the policy makers should take a decision.

“If it is true that more than 100 patients have tested positive in Arthur Road Jail, then it is for the authorities to ensure that other inmates, who are presently lodged in the jail, are not infected by the virus on account of overcrowding,” the court said.

“The authorities must remember that inmates have the right to a safe and healthy environment even when they were incarcerated,” said Justice Dangre.

The HC directed the state government and prison department to take appropriate steps to ensure the safety of the jail inmates.

“There is always a hope and expectation that the jail authorities are sensitive to the prevalent situation,” the court said.

The bench noted that there were several inmates above the age of 60 and others who suffered from ailments.

“Under such circumstances, it is open for the state government and jail authorities to take appropriate policy decision to tackle the situation to keep all inmates safe and ensure that they contain the spread of virus in the jail,” said the court.

Shroff’s counsel Aabad Ponda argued that the inmate suffered from diabetes, hypertension and high blood pressure, and hence, needed to be kept safe to ensure that he does not contract the infection.

The court, however, rejected Shroff’s plea after noting that no imminent health impediment was reflected in his case.

In Maharashtra, the number of positive cases of Coronavirus is 19063 so far with 731 fatalities and recovery of 3470 patients, according to Ministry of Health data.