The Bombay High Court Thursday asked the state government to consider carrying out a scientific exercise to ascertain the future requirements of setting up modern jails in the state after taking into consideration models adopted by developed countries.
A division bench of Justices A S Oka and A A Sayyed said considering the change in requirements over the years, the state should look at what will be the different spaces required for high-risk prisoners, those who have been awarded life sentence, etc.
“From the time the Yerawada and Arthur jails were constructed, requirement has changed. In the past the concept of high-risk prisoners was not there. But now several such prisoners are lodged at the Arthur Road jail. The future requirement needs to be seen,” said Justice Oka.
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“How many undertrials are lodged in the jails across Maharashtra? What will be the requirements in future? Has the state government applied its mind on all these issues?” the court sought to know.
The High Court was hearing a public interest litigation on the issue of jail conditions in the state by a petition filed by one Shaikh Ibrahim Abdul, who is currently lodged in the Yerawada prison.
“The government will have to conduct an exercise and ascertain what are the requirements of a model and modern jail on the lines of jails in developed countries. The state can take the help of some retired senior police official or some expert from the Tata Institute of Social Science,” said the Bench.
Appearing for the petitioner, Uday Warunjikar suggested that a committee be set up to look into the issue and such a committee be headed by a retired judge. The court has also asked the government to consider the same.
According to the court, the requirement of the next 15 years will have to be taken into consideration while planning with the increasing number of undertrials lodged in jail.
The government pleader informed the government that they are looking at acquiring land for this purpose. The court has posted the petition for further hearing on January 23.
As per statistics provided to the court earlier, Arthur Road prison has a sanctioned space for 804 prisoners but is overcrowded with 3,000 prisoners. Yerawada jail has a capacity to house 2,323 prisoners but is currently overcrowded with over 6,000 inmates (convicts and undertrials).