The Maharashtra government on Thursday assured the Bombay High Court that it would fill all the sanctioned posts across the 47 prisons in the State by the end of July.
The decision came after a Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G.S. Kulkarni rapped the State for not filling the vacant posts in the jails. There is a shortage of two psychologists, two psychiatrists, one class-I medical officer, 11 classes II and III medical officers, 13 compounders, 30 nursing orderly, and four lab technicians. In fact, of the sanctioned 175 posts in the medical branch of prisons, only 112 posts are occupied.
After government pleader Deepak Thakare said that by July-end all vacant posts in the prisons would be filled, the Bench said, “It needs to be a continuous process and there has to be a standard approach for filling posts. This is the obligation of the State.”
In the last hearing, the HC had pointed out that there were only 32 doctors in the prisons across the State of whom two doctors held the MBBS degree and of the sanctioned 175 posts for medical branch, 112 posts had been filled while 63 posts were still vacant.
Mr. Thakare told the Bench on Thursday that 10,811 prisoners had been released on emergency parole. “Of the 3,555 COVID-19 positive inmates, 13 have died and 3,222 have recovered. Among jail staffers, 715 have tested positive and nine of them have succumbed to the virus,” he said.
Mr. Thakare submitted an affidavit filed by Chhering Dorje, Special Inspector General of Police (Prisons). It has minutes of the meeting held by the high-power committee constituted to release prisoners to decongest prisons in the wake of the pandemic.
The affidavit said that prison staff had been declared frontline workers. “Of the total 3,252 staffers, 3,818 have been vaccinated and the process of vaccinating the rest is in process,” it said.
It also said there were 41 temporary prisons established by the State of which 10 had been converted into COVID-19 care centres where asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic positive inmates were isolated. “More than 66,000 COVID-19 tests on inmates and 4,000 on prison staffers have been conducted so far. About 2,722 vaccine jabs have been administered to prisoners. As on May 11, the prison population is 34,733 of whom 29,186 are undertrials and 5,547 are convicts,” the affidavit said.