The Bombay High Court bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni, on Thursday, ordered the Maharashtra government to consider starting pathology laboratories within the jail premises across the state. The bench opined that this would help bring down the burden on police escorts to transport inmates from prisons to hospitals. The bench was hearing a suo motu public interest litigation taken up following a surge in COVID-19 cases across prisons. The PIL was taken up on the basis of the coverage of the Free Press Journal newspaper pertaining to the crisis owing to the spread of the virus in prisons.
Appearing for the state, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni apprised the bench of the fact that the number of active cases have come down sharply and the situation is in control.
The AG further said that, as on date, only 27,000 inmates are left to be vaccinated and the entire staff has been inoculated.
During the hearing, the bench was informed that there is no pathology laboratory within prisons. For this, the prisoner is to be taken out to a hospital where the samples are collected. Then, they have to await reports and all this is time-consuming, senior counsel Mihir Desai submitted.
Having heard the contention, the bench advised the state to set up pathology laboratories within jails. "Why can't you have pathology laboratories in jail clinics? This will make the system more smooth," the judges said.
"With such a facility, samples of inmates can be collected and tested immediately and the prisoner won't have to wait for his reports for days and won't have to be escorted to some hospital," the bench added.
Noting that only 27,000 prisoners are left to be vaccinated, the judges suggested the state carry out the same on a priority basis. However, AG Kumbhakoni told the judges that the suggestion would be considered.
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