COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India has taken cognizance of a complaint that the Government of Maharashtra has adopted an inappropriate approach about the release of prisoners, which may lead to infecting many prisoners with Covid-19. The complaint has been filed by the Commission’s Prison Monitor, Ms Maja Daruwala.

Allegedly, the policy adopted by Maharashtra Government to decongest jails has arisen due to misinterpretation of directions given by the Supreme Court in the matter. Allegedly random tests conducted on 144 prisoners in the Arthur Road Jail, 103 were found positive including 26 members of the staff. The complainant has requested for the intervention of the Commission to ensure the well-being of the prisoner. Several suggestions have been given in her communication.

The Commission has observed that it is aware of the fact that in many jails, the prisoners as well as the staff members have fallen prey to the Covid-19 virus due to overcrowding, lack of manpower and medical facilities.

Accordingly, it has sent a copy of the complaint to the Chief Secretary and the DG (Prisons), Maharashtra calling for a detail report in the matter within four weeks.

The report should be submitted to the Commission in a format giving details of all the jails in the State of Maharashtra mentioning capacity of the jail, number of prisoners presently lodged, number of prisoners found positive for Covid-19, number of prisoners kept under quarantine, number of prisoners died due to Covid-19 illness and steps being taken by the State prison authority to ensure safety of the prisoners and the personnel working at the jails across the state.

According to the complaint on 23.03.2020, the Supreme Court has directed all the States and UTs to constitute a high powered committee to decide which class of prisoners will be released in order to decongest the jails by way of bail or parole etc. The directions have been given due to spread of Covid-19 inside various jails and to maintain social distancing, at the maximum.

She has mentioned that 60 jails in the State of Maharashtra have 36,000 inmates against the available capacity of 24,095. Only, the Yerwada Central Prison in Pune which is one of the largest prisons of the State, houses over 6,000 inmates against available capacity of 2,500. It is also mentioned that a large number of posts are lying vacant in these prisons, including medical staff.


NHRC

Press Release dt. 14-05-2020

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Karnataka High Court:  A Division Bench of Abhay S. Oka, CJ and B.V. Nagarathna, J. asked the State Government of Karnataka to take cognizance on various significant issues that have been raised in wake of the outbreak of Corona Virus.

Bench while addressing the present petition, appealed the members of the Bar and citizens to not file more PILs with the issues being considered in the present petition.

First Issue: Allegation against the police that they are indulging in indiscriminate lathi charge against persons who are found on streets.

Advocate General as well as Additional Government Advocate brought the attention of the Court to the directions issued by Commr. of Police calling upon police to show restraint.

Bench: It is stated that if Director General and IGP of State issue the same guidelines as stated above all over the State, then there may not be an occasion to make allegations regarding police excesses and police indulging in lathi charge. Court also stated that it is the responsibility to cooperate with administration and police for effective implementation of Order of Ministry of Home Affairs dated 24-03-2020.

Issue of Decongestion of jails in light of directions issued by Apex Court:

A Committee headed by Executive Chairman of Karnataka State Legal Services Authority was constituted that issued directions for implementation of directions issued by Supreme Court. Committee at District level to identify under trial prisoners who are charged with offences for which punishment is upto 7 years or less.

Court invited the Advocate General’s attention to the fact that State should ensure that the prisoner’s released on bail or parole have reached to their respective places.

Parole or Bail have to be undertaken after obtaining due consent of prisoner concerned. State will have to ensure that prisoners released do not suffer and are not required to stay on streets.

Directions have been issued considering rights of the prisoners under Article 21 of the Constitution of India with a view to ensure that spread of Corona Virus within prisons is controlled.

Bench states that it would be appropriate if State Government ensures that police strictly follows the guidelines laid down by Supreme Court in case of Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar, (2014) 8 SCC 273.

Situation with regard to closure of all Anganwadis in the State:

Supply of hot meal to pregnant women and lactating mothers was being made and even food to the mal-nutritioned children was being provided.

Now this would result in stoppage of food supply. Thus these issues will have to be addressed by the State.

Attention is invited to the fact that all schools have been ordered to be closed : Issue is providing food to the children who were entitled to benefit of mid-day meals.

State Government will have to address the above-stated.

Coming to issue of supply of food to poor people, daily wage workers, people residing o streets, railway platforms etc., suggestions have been made as well as aspect of provision of face masks, sanitizers etc., to this category of persons.

Further the submission made is to reduce congestion in ration shops, State must consider the question of delivery of food grains at door step.

Additional Government Advocate for the State pointed out that State Government agreed to release quota of ration for April, 2020 and May, 2020 to all those holding ration cards.

It would be appropriate if State Government directs Gram Panchayats to take care of food security of the citizens residing within its jurisdiction.

Other Concern: If State is going to supply cooked food to the needy sections through Indira Canteens, it will lead to mass gathering of people which may result in community spreading of disease.

Court stated that State Government is expected to respond the above subject before the next date by producing a comprehensive plan for supply of food grains/food to the needy people, poor people, daily wage workers, people residing on the streets, railway platforms, bus stands etc.

Another issue that arose in front of the Court was that , there are large instances of hoarding of essential supplies and goods. 

Bench in the above regard states that, the State government will apply the available laws strictly and prevent hoarding of essential supplies, as such illegal activities directly affect the supply of essential goods to citizens.

Issue regarding pourakarmikas:

Sarfaraz Khan, Joint Commissioner of BBMP of Solid Waste Management department stated that the equipments as stated therein have been supplied to all the pourakarmikas working under BBMP.

Issue regarding collection of waste/garbage from houses where persons have been subjected to home quarantine:

Bench states that State Government will have to respond by taking special measures on the above regard as apprehensions are that pourakarmikas will be affected by infection.

Every single pourakarmika must be provided with the safety equipment. The State Government will have to ensure that appropriate transport facilities are made available to them.

They play a very pivotal role in the present circumstances.

State Government is expected to exercise plenary powers and issue directions to all municipal bodies to extend all the benefits as discussed and all the benefits mentioned.

Also the State Government will have to take a policy decision of introducing special measures for protecting the above category of workmen.

Another aspect that State Government has to respond on the next date of hearing is number of laboratories available for testing Corona Virus.

Another issue for consideration is of providing food to stray animals, stray dogs etc.

Bench asks the State Government to look into the aforesaid aspect.

It would be appropriate if State Government provides a portal on its website with a request to all NGOs to upload information about the nature of work they are are doing and geographical area of their work. State Government can more effectively take the help of NGOs and infact, allocate different categories of services in different areas.

One of the submissions was regarding seeking direction to Wakf Board to take steps to control large gathering at the time of prayers.

Court makes it clear through this order that,

“the Central Government’s order dated 29-03-2020 will have to be implemented in its true letter and spirit.”

State government will have to take cognizance of the present order and take appropriate steps on the basis of the said order.

Bench directs the listing of these petition on 03-04-2020. [Mohammed Arif Jameel  v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine Kar 391, decided on 30-03-2020]