With the number Covid-19 positive inmates across jails in Maharashtra touching 1,668, the Bombay high court (HC) took cognizance of the spike in infections at Kolhapur Central Prison and directed the state to take immediate measures to safeguard the inmates, officers and jail staff across all jails. The court also said that it would decide on cases of interim bail and parole on September 10 after it was informed that nearly 150 of the 300 inmates in the Kolhapur jail who were tested for Covid, were positive.
A division bench of justice SS Shinde and justice MS Karnik was hearing the applications by two in Kolhapur Central Prison inmates for interim Covid parole and furlough, respectively. The court was informed by advocate NN Gavankar that there was an alarming rise in Covid cases in the jail, and hence, there was an urgency for allowing the applications.
While referring to the application of Sachin Khambe who was convicted and sentenced to life in 2002 for murder, Gavankar said that as Khambe was already behind bars for around 20 years, in light of the Covid situation, he could be granted interim Covid bail.
With regards to the second application of Narendra Giri who is serving a 12-year sentence for colluding in the murder of Shiv Sena corporator Kamlakar Jamsandekar, Gavankar said that given the pandemic, Giri’s application for furlough should be heard favourably.
Gavankar submitted that as on September 3, of the 300 inmates who had been tested for Covid, 150 were found positive. He further submitted that as the isolation facilities for the inmates were not sufficient, his clients should be granted Covid parole.
However, according to data released by the prison department, as on September 3, of the 1,887 inmates lodged in the Kolhapur Central Prison, around 473 had undergone swab tests, and 95 had tested positive, of which seven recovered.
After hearing the submissions, the court observed, “We are aware that there is an increase in the number of cases, and the Covid infection is spreading fast among jail inmates.” Justice Shinde further said that it would include all prisons in the state while hearing the applications by Gavankar if the government did not take immediate steps to safeguard the inmates and jail staff.
When the court heard an application by another inmate of the Kolhapur jail seeking interim bail on the grounds that the Supreme Court (SC) had issued directions to decongest jails to avoid the spread of Covid-19, justice Shinde said the bench would decide on all interim Covid bail and parole pleas once and for all on September 10.