SC notice on measures to check COVID-19 in jails

SC notice to Chief Secys on measures to check coronavirus in jails

The top court took suo motu cognisance of the matter to provide medical assistance to prisoners in view of any outbreak

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The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to chief secretaries of all states and Union Territories and respective jail heads asking them to respond to the issue of overcrowding in prisons, following the crisis arising out of spread of COVID-19.

The top court took suo motu cognisance of the matter to provide medical assistance to prisoners in view of any outbreak.

A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and L Nageswara Rao sought to know the situation in jails as there was a lot of congestion. If there was an outbreak in jails, it would become hub of spreading the virus and might affect very large number of not only the inmates but others as well, the bench said.

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“Can we take this as an opportunity to improve jail capacity and prevent overcrowding,” the bench asked the government's top law officers.

Attorney General K K Venugopal suggested inmates could be tested every morning for symptoms. Those tested positive could be taken over and the remaining may return to the jails.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for his part, said attempts were being taken to prevent overcrowding in prisons like Tihar and if any person was found to have any symptoms, the requisite test for COVID-19 was being conducted.

Director General of Tihar Jail, who was also present in the court, said that in Tihar jail, one ward has several barracks of 40-50 people and each ward had 300-400 people.

After a brief hearing, the court directed for issuance of notice to DG prisons and chief secretaries and head of social welfare departments of all states and Union Territories asking them to spell out by March 20 measures undertaken to check possible spread of Covid-19.

The court decided to take up the matter again on March 23.

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