Raj HC makes corona test mandatory for all newly arrested persons

Jaipur, May 17 (PTI) The Rajasthan High Court on Sunday directed the state government to conduct a COVID-19 test for anyone being sent to judicial or policy custody, making sure that only those who are free of the disease are put behind bars.

A bench of Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Ashok Gaur gave this direction, taking suo moto cognisance the sudden outbreak of COVID-19 in Jaipur district jail, where 130 prisoners along and the jail superintendent have been found infected.

The bench directed that an accused will have to be tested by local medical authorities for coronavirus.

It added that “only” an accused found negative will be remanded to judicial or police custody.

“If found negative, only then allow such accused persons to be remanded to jail custody/police custody,” the order said.

The order did not spell out the exact protocol to be followed if an accused person tests positive.

Jail authorities in the state presently keep new jail entrants in isolated wards, separate from the general wards for prison inmates, for 14 to 21 days.

The bench also directed jail authorities to ensure that prior to shifting prisoners from the isolated wards to general ones, they must be tested again for the infection to rule out any chance of the coronavirus spread among prisoners.

“Once such clearance is obtained from the medical authorities, the jail authority may shift such prisoners or under-trials to the general ward,” the order by the bench said.

The bench said the jail authorities who are in direct contact with isolated prisoners are also required to be paid special attention to ensure that they or their family members do not contract infection.

It asked authorities to ensure test of jail staffers and their family members on a regular and random basis, at least fortnightly.

The bench also directed medical officers of each district to regularly inspect isolation wards in jails and suggest jail authorities to take all requisite steps for maintaining cleanliness and sanitization there.

Jail doctors must be made available for checking prisoners in isolation wards on day-to-day basis, the bench said.

“The jail doctors shall ensure visit to isolation wards and checkup of prisoners there everyday and record the same,” the order said.

“The aforesaid directions are being made to the state of Rajasthan in order to incorporate these directions in their SOP for jails for the purpose of the present COVID pandemic,” says the order.

The bench issued the order after hearing Rajasthan’s advocate general and noting the statements of additional chief secretary (Home) and prison director general.

The additional chief secretary (Home) told the bench in his statement that the state government has created a Standard Operating Procedure dealing with the admission of an accused to jails.

He said as per the SOP, special Isolation wards have been created in jails where an accused or prisoner is required to spend 21 days on first admission and is shifted to the general ward within the jail if and only if, he is found to have no symptoms of coronavirus infection.

The bench subsequently directed the state government to incorporate in the SOP the requirement for testing an accused for corona virus by local medical authorities.

The court also directed to form committees consisting of secretary of district legal services authority, CMHO or its representative and president or secretary of the local bar association which shall visit each jail within their respective districts and verify the status of jails.

The committees will submit report before the member secretary of Rajasthan state legal services authority (RSLSA) on or before May 22 and the RSLSA will present it before the court.

The court slated the matter for next hearing on May 27.

In Rajasthan, there are nearly 20,000 prisoners in various jails having the housing capacity of 22,000. PTI CORR SDA RAX RAX