A petition has been moved in the Delhi High Court seeking a direction to the Centre and Delhi government to vaccinate undertrial prisoners and convicts, who were out on interim bail during the pandemic, asserting that there is a probability of the prison complexes becoming Covid-19 hotspots upon their return.
Petitioner advocate Abhilasha Shrawat submitted that a High-Powered Committee has decided to not extend the emergency parole or interim bail of the prisoners on the grounds of declining Covid-19 situation and asked them to surrender by February 7.
“If prisoners outside the jails are not vaccinated, then there are probable chances of the prison complexes becoming hotspots of pandemic. The problem of overcrowding of prisons along with poor sanitation facilities, makes these prisons prone to the spreading of the virus,” the plea stated.
Shrawat emphasized that it is incumbent on the Centre and Delhi government to arrange and facilitate Covid vaccination to all prisoners who were out on bail, emergency parole or furlough to curtail transmission of coronavirus.
“Those enlarged on interim bail or parole may spread the infection amongst the inmates of the respective jails, when they may be required to surrender; and also, the jails are overcrowded and have an inherent vulnerability to assist the unchecked spread of Covid-19, owing to space constraints and over congestion.”
The petitioner said that not administering the vaccine would lead to further spread of virus in view of the limited space to keep the inmates, and inability to maintain physical distancing among the jail inmates. “It is the duty of the state to protect the health of the prisoners,” she added.
Asserting that vaccinations of prison staff will not be enough to stop the spread of Covid in prisons, she added that, “It is imperative that we protect the lives of vulnerable individuals, whom the state has sentenced to serve time in these facilities, by offering them the option of Covid vaccination as soon as possible.”
Besides requesting for vaccination, the petitioner also sought for further extension of prisoner’s interim bail in view of the circumstances.