Govt To Provide More Ambulances To Jails: Orissa High Court

The high court bench of Orissa comprising of Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar and Justice Gourishankar Satapathy gave a number of directions in the case of Krushna Prasad Sahoo v. State of Odisha & Ors to the State government for improving the conditions of jails across the state and has also asked the District Legal Services Authorities (DLSAs) to pay unannounced visits to jails in their respective jurisdictions to assess prison conditions. 

Facts of the Case:

A Public Interest Lawsuit (PIL) regarding the overcrowding of jails around the State was being heard in court. According to an affidavit submitted by the Department of Prisons, the degree of overcrowding in the Jajpur sub-jail has decreased from 77% to 48% as of February 22, 2023, as a result of the transfer of some inmates to the adjacent jails. 

Observations & Directions:

The Court also found that, with the exception of Malkangiri, where it increased from 37% to 45%, the percentage of inmates who are overcrowded has decreased in most sub-jails. The aforementioned overcrowding was caused by the building of the boundary wall, which is anticipated to be finished by the end of April 2023, according to the Director General (DG) of Prisons, who was present virtually. As a result, the percentage will decrease. The DG informed the Court that an advertisement will be released very soon for the positions of Psychiatric Social Workers (PSWs) and Clinical Psychologists, which is relevant to the mental health of inmates. The statistics of the visits made by doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists to the various jails and sub-jails in the months of January and February 2023, as well as the services offered under the “Tele Manas” and “e-Sanjeevani” schemes, were also presented to the court. According to information provided to the Court regarding the provision of ambulances for prisons, this topic was covered in a meeting of the Prison Development Board (PDB) Committee held on March 3, 2023, where it was decided that in addition to the ambulance services available by dialing “108,” ambulances available with the closest Community Health Centers (CHC) will be shared on a priority basis with the concerned jails for the shifting of prisoners in need of emergency medical attention.

The court ordered the Home Department to make sure that at least 10 extra ambulances be delivered to the Prisons Department for usage in the jails and sub-jails, given that there are 87 jails and sub-jails in Odisha. End of May 2023 is the deadline for completing this. The idea for reorganizing the jails is currently being actively considered by the Government, the Court was also informed. Thus, a direction was issued to the Additional Chief Secretary, Home Department to place before the Court by the next date the decision of the Government thereon.

Finally, the Court ordered all the Secretaries of the DLSAs to make surprise visits to the various jails and sub-jails under their jurisdiction over the next two months and to report back to the Court by May 31, 2023.

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