The counsel for the petitioner, Mr. Desai, stated that the High-Powered Committee has already made recommendations to decongest prisons. He stated that 14,000 bail applications are pending before different criminal courts. The Courts’ presiding officers have to issue directions for the prisoners early release. But they did not dispose of bail applications immediately. He said that keeping many applications pending is not fair. It will not serve the purpose of establishment of the High Power Committee. Moreover, the High-Powered Committee has already released the categories of under-trial prisoners. Hence, the Court should release these prisoners on bail.
He also stated that “We are of the opinion that the relevant courts are not supposed to act as mere post-offices. They allow applications without application of mind.”
Mr Desai mentioned that Arthur Road prisoners are suffering from Coronavirus. A total of 158 prisoners are suffering. It is pertinent to note that this disease transmits quickly. Thus, there is a need to conduct COVID-19 test of other inmates.
He stated that the family members are not aware of the virus-infected prisoner. Thus, the authorities should not allow personal meetings between inmates and family members. But, the prison authorities should ensure that the inmates can contact their family members. They may do this by allowing them to have phone calls at least twice a week.
Mr. Desai submitted that the family members of inmates are not able to transfer money to inmates. Thus, prison authorities should open separate bank accounts for inmates for transferring money.
The counsel stated that the memo dated 24.05.2020, was issued by the authorities of Arthur prison. Under this order, the authorities directed prisons to arrange the video-conferencing facility. But, till the time facility get operative, new directions are issued. The authorities will also issue directions to allow two phone calls in a week.
The petitioner wanted that the test for COVID-19 should be conducted for other inmates as well. Hence, the petitioner pleaded before the Court to issue directions for the same. The authorities should inform the families of the COVID-19 positive inmates. The authorities should provide benefits of two phone calls per week. So they can establish contact with their families. Also, prison authorities should open separate bank accounts of inmates.
The Court asked the prison authorities to put in place a circular. The circular should state about the opening of bank accounts by inmates. The Court also stated that –
“The Correctional Home authorities will display the bank account number. All other details for money transfer will also be displayed. The authorities will put this information on their website. Once family members transfer money in an inmate bank account, they will use in a manner that benefits him. It will spend used according to law.”
Further, the Court gave time to the respondent authorities to file a reply. The Court will hear the matter again on June 7, 2020.
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