Can vaccines be allocated for prisoners, HC asks Maha govt

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Mumbai, May 20 (PTI) The Bombay High Court on Thursday asked the Maharashtra government if it can provide some of the anti-coronavirus vaccine doses supplied by the Centre for prison inmates in the state.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on rising COVID-19 cases in prison staff and inmates.

The court has taken up the PIL on its own.

Earlier in the day, during the hearing on another PIL related to the pandemic, the state had informed the bench that it was to receive two lakh doses of vaccines from the Union government by evening.

'Can some portion of the vaccine be allocated to the prisons? Even prison inmates have the right to life,' the judges said during the later hearing.

'We hope and trust that out of the two lakh vaccines some would be allocated to the jail authorities for administering to the deserving prisoners who have co- morbidities,' the court said.

Government lawyer Deepak Thakare said instances of infections in prisons had dwindled. The government has set up seven additional temporary prisons which are serving as COVID care centres for prison inmates, he added.

Thakare also assured that by mid-July this year, recruitment will be done for all vacant sanctioned posts of doctors and other medical staff in state prisons.

The court noted that the state has an obligation to fill also sanctioned vacancies.

Senior counsel Mihir Desai, appointed as amicus curiae (friend of the court) to assist the HC in the case, stated that 12,750 interim bail applications are pending before lower courts in the state, some of them for over a year.

These pleas should be decided speedily so that deserving inmates get bail and prisons are decongested, he said.

The high court directed the state to file a reply by June 2, the next date of hearing. PTI AYA KRK KRK

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