Kin to be Informed Within 48 Hours if Prisoner Tests Positive For Coronavirus

The Maharashtra government told the Bombay High Court on Tuesday that prison authorities will inform the family members of a patient if he or she tests positive for coronavirus within 48 hours of getting test results.

The government made the submission before a bench led by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta during the hearing of a bunch of PILs.

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni submitted to the court revised draft guidelines for safeguarding the health of inmates of prisons across the state in the light of coronavirus pandemic.

All the inmates will be allowed to contact their lawyers through phone and email, the draft guidelines said.

Last week, the government submitted a detailed draft of guidelines that provided for daily thermal screening of all the inmates, creation of temporary quarantine and COVID care centers at requisitioned buildings across 26 districts and a regular health check-up of inmates with comorbidities.

On Tuesday, the government said it had added more provisions, such as informing the inmate's kin within 48 hours if he or she tests positive for coronavirus, and updating them about the inmate's health status.

The court was hearing Public Interest Litigations filed by the People's Union for Civil Liberties and some others.

The PILs, filed through senior counsel Mihir Desai, demanded that the government ensure safety of inmates of the Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai and prisons across Maharashtra as there were reports of several inmates and staff members testing positive for coronavirus at the Arthur Road Jail.

Last month the government told the HC that it had applied to concerned courts seeking permission to release 14,400 inmates to free up space and implement social distancing inside jails.

While the prisons in the state have capacity to house 24,000 inmates, the prison population in Maharashtra was 37,000 when virus outbreak started.

Around 8,000 inmates had been released on temporary bail and jail authorities had made bail applications for 14,400 others, the state told the court. The HC had then directed lower courts to hear these applications expeditiously.

The next hearing before the HC would be on Friday.