HC asks state to improve living conditions of inmates, file compliance report
Naziya Alvi Rahman
Mumbai: A judicial enquiry ordered by the Bombay High Court has revealed that most Maharashtra jails, including women jails like Byculla, do not have bathrooms and inmates are forced to take bath in groups in open areas.
Toilets have been found inadequate in comparison to the existing strength of jails. Of those that exist, most are unhygienic and almost half are closed for maintenance.
The data for central jails, including Arthur Road, Yerwada and Byculla, reveal that the jails have almost double the inmates of the sanctioned strength.
In Arthur Road, there are 2,466 inmates, of which just 10 are convicted and rest all are still facing trial.
In Yerwada, the figures are slightly better with 905 out of 3,792 prisoners having being convicted. The high court, in an order on March 8, has asked the state to immediately take steps to improve the living conditions and file a compliance report within four weeks.
“We are afraid from the report received in respect of Yerwada, Arthur Road and Byculla prisons, since it is apparent that basic amenities are not provided in terms of toilets, bathrooms and medical aid.
“We, therefore, direct the superintendents of all prisons all over Maharashtra to ensure that basic amenities are provided to prisoners. We also direct the state government to undertake repair and renovation work of toilets and bathrooms on an urgent basis,” reads the order passed by a bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice Revati Mohite Dere.
The judicial enquiry was ordered on a criminal public interest litigation filed by a social group Jan Adalat in October 2015.
The court’s order particularly mentioned the living conditions at Arthur Road jail and asked authorities to find solutions to overcrowding.
“Apart from the conditions of toilets and bathrooms, the judicial officer has also mentioned that jail is overcrowded, and though the sanctioned capacity of the prison is 804, at present 2,466 prisoners are kept, out of which 10 prisoners are convicted and rest are undertrials. The state government shall ensure that this over-crowding is reduced and steps should, accordingly, be taken within four weeks from today,” the court added. It suggested that more and more undertrials should be allowed to present their case for bail to reduce overcrowding.
“The superintendent of the prison shall ensure that undertrials are produced before the court regularly so that upon making an application, they can be released on bail,” reads the order.
The report also highlighted the need to apprise security arrangements in and around the prison area. “While taking prisoners to the court, adequate security should be provided to them, and the state government shall accordingly increase the strength of security guards in the prison,” the court noted.
The report also recommended the need for additional space to interview prisoners. “At the moment, there are 13 interviewing windows available on the right side of the main gate of Arthur jail. The judicial officer has stated that there is adequate space available on the left side of the gate, where 10 more windows can be opened. The state government is directed to install 10 more windows within six months,” the order said.
The report on Byculla prison stated there were 26 children staying with their mothers. The court has asked the state government to ensure that children who are kept with mothers are provided opportunity to go to schools.
The court also asked the state to submit a chart and inform the age, number of years the children have been in jail, their sex and whether proper medical facilities are available to them, and, if not, what can be done to remedy the situation.
Published Date DNA : Mar 25, 2016