HC asks Prison dept about vaccination policy for inmates in Tihar's Central Jail-6

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New Delhi, May 4 (PTI) The Delhi High Court has asked the prison department of Delhi government whether it has any policy to vaccinate all the inmates in Tihar's Central Jail-6 here, as 'there are greater chances of spreading of the COVID-19 infection within the enclosed premises of the prison'.

This was one of several queries the court posed to the prison department on the issues of online and physical mulaqats or meetings, tele-calling facilities for inmates who have tested COVID positive, operationalising of the computer centre in the jail and computers for the legal aid room there.

The queries by Justice Prathiba M Singh came while hearing a plea filed by two JNU students -- Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita -- who are also Pinjra Tod activists, seeking various facilities which included physical mulaqats, computer centre for video conferencing and legal aid.

Pinjra Tod (Break the Cage) was founded in 2015 to make hostels and paying guest accommodations less restrictive for women students.

Narwal and Kalita, arrested last year in May in connection with the communal riots in north east Delhi and in judicial custody presently, are lodged in Central Jail-6 of Tihar.

On the issue of vaccination of the inmates, the prison department told the court that at present only 12 inmates in Tihar's Central Jail-6 were over the age of 45 years and they have been vaccinated.

The court, thereafter, asked the lawyer for the prison department to 'take instructions as to the vaccination policy that is being proposed for vaccinating the inmates in the Central Jail-6, Tihar' as 'there are greater chances of spreading of the COVID-19 infection within the enclosed premises of the prison'.

On holding of online and physical meetings of prisoners with their lawyers or families, the department said that while the latter has been suspended entirely in view of the pandemic, the former was resumed from May 3.

The department told the court that even after wearing the PPE kits, 'it is not advisable to have a physical meeting/mulaqats'.

On telecalling facilities for inmates who are COVID positive, the department told the court that a separate mobile number has been obtained in order to enable such prisoners to be able to make telephone calls, and a specific dedicated staff has been nominated to visit the COVID-19 ward to facilitate the same.

The department also told the court that the Office of Superintendent of Jail is in fact intimating the relatives of the inmates as to their medical condition on a daily basis.

The court directed the lawyer appearing for the department to obtain instructions regarding frequency of the visits being made by the dedicated staff and frequency of the calls made by inmates who are quarantined due to testing COVID positive or showing its symptoms.

On operationalising the computer centre, the department said the same would be done in a phased manner as soon the second wave of COVID-19 subsides.

Regarding which sites can be accessed from that room, the court asked the Jail Superintendent of Central Jail-6 and concerned Director at the National Informatics Centre to coordinate on the issue and file a status report before the next date of hearing.

On the requirement of computers in the legal aid centre in the prison, the court asked the Delhi State Legal Services Authority to file a report on how many computers and printers would be required there. PTI HMP RKS RKS