| Mumbai |
Published: April 25, 2020 2:22:33 am
With four jails in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region under lockdown, Taloja Central Jail in Navi Mumbai is in a quandary about taking in new inmates from Mumbai and Thane, where many areas have been declared hotspots.
The Taloja jail currently houses nearly 3,000 inmates against its capacity of 2,124. As a precaution to avoid the jail emerging as a possible infection hotspot, it is learnt that senior officials from the prison department have requested the police to ensure that those being arrested be made to undergo COVID-19 tests before being sent to jail. The decision, however, has earned the superintendent of Taloja jail, a warning from a court in Thane.
Sources said that after jail officials refused to allow entry to an inmate sent to judicial custody by the court earlier this week, as he had not been made to undergo a test, a warning for initiating contempt of court proceedings were sent to the Taloja superintendent.
The court has said that the jail officials will have to first admit the accused and if found necessary, refer him to a government hospital for further treatment. It also said that otherwise, courts will be burdened to order medical examination of the accused.
Last month, the jail superintendent had sought that new prisoners be first sent to a quarantine facility before shifting them to the jail. A request letter was sent to various courts in the city as well as other authorities, including police and the law and judiciary department.
New inmates, however, are still being sent to the jail, where separate barracks have been arranged for their isolation. An official from the District Legal Services Authority said that the jail superintendent had made the request expressing difficulties faced in arranging for space within the prison for new entrants. “We had suggested that a request should be made to the Home department for allotment of a separate space as a quarantine facility,” said the official.
Sunil Ramanand, Additional Director General (Prisons) and Taloja jail superintendent, Kaustubh Kurlekar, did not respond to calls.
Prisoners from Arthur Road jail – accommodating inmates almost four times its capacity of 800 — and from Byculla, Thane and Kalyan jails, which are also overcrowded, were shifted to Taloja in since the outbreak. The four jails, along with Yerwada central prison in Pune, have stopped allowing new inmates.
The Supreme Court had last month directed that a high-powered committee be set up in each state to decongest prisons. So far, 4,396 prisoners have been released in the state, mostly undertrials who face up to seven years imprisonment.
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