Order of the Supreme Court regarding contagion of Covid 19 virus in prisons of India, 16/03/2020

  • 16/03/2020

Order of the Supreme Court of India in the matter of In Re: Contagion of Covid 19 virus in prisons dated 16/03/2020.

The SC noted that even though the government of India adviced that social distancing must be maintained to prevent the spread of Covid-19 virus, the "bitter truth is that our prisons are overcrowded, making it difficult for the prisoners to maintain social distancing." There are 1339 prisons in this country, and approximately 4,66,084 inmates inhabit such prisons. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the occupancy rate of Indian prisons is at 117.6%, and in states such as Uttar Pradesh and Sikkim, the occupancy rate is as high as 176.5% and 157.3% respectively. Like most other viral diseases, the susceptibility of COVID-19 is greater in over-crowded places, mass gatherings, etc.

The SC said that there was an imminent need to take steps on an urgent basis to prevent the contagion of Covid-19 virus in our prisons. If prisoners are tested positive for the Covid19 virus, immediate measures have to be taken for their quarantining and medical treatment. The SC directed that notice be issued to the Chief Secretaries, administrators, home secretaries, directors general of all the prisons and department of social welfare of all the states and the union territories, to show cause why directions should not be issued for dealing with the present health crisis arising out of coronavirus (Covid 19) in the country and further to suggest immediate measures which should be adopted for the medical assistance to the prisoners in all jails and the juveniles lodged in the remand homes and for protection of their health and welfare. The respondents have been asked to submit their reply in writing before March 20, 2020. The reply would contain the particulars of the steps being taken and the relevant data necessary for implementing the measures to prevent the possible spread of the corona virus among the prioners/juveniles.