Noting that the inmates lodged in Tihar Jail here are being referred to outside hospitals for even basic treatments, the Delhi High Court has directed the chief secretary of the city government to convene a meeting to work out a plan for improving facilities at the central jail.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said that the hospital at the Central Jail was working as a referral centre due to lack of facilities and since 12,000 prisoners were lodged there, “it is absolutely imperative that due medical attention is paid to them”.
The court directed the chief secretary of Delhi government to hold a meeting with the principal secretary of home deparment, principal secretary of Department of Health and Family Welfare and the Director General of Prisons at the earliest.
The bench said that subsequent to the meeting, an affidavit shall be filed by the chief secretary indicating the time line within which action shall be taken for ensuring improvement of the existing facilities.
A direction has been issued to the principal secretary of Department of Health and Family Welfare to place before the court a time line within which recruitment would be made to the vacant posts at all levels, including for mental health experts.
Noting that there are extensive referrals to outside hospitals for anti-retroviral therapy (ART), used for treating AIDS patients, the court asked the secretary of Delhi State Aids Control Society to join the meeting and listed the matter for further hearing on May 2.
The directions came after the court perused a note and an affidavit filed by a Residential Medical Officer of Tihar Jail who had said that “the Central Jail Hospital is basically working as a secondary health care centre with very limited facilities. There is an urgent need to increase facilities so that morbidity and mortality among inmates could be minimised”.
The doctor had also placed before the court the referral statistics according to which between November 2015 to December 2017, 3358 visits were made to outside hospitals for ART, 2215 visits for radiotherapy and surgery, 1797 for eye care and 1700 for dental care.
Apart from these, thousands of referrals were also made for medicine, orthopaedics and ENT, the court noted.
“These statistics would show that outside hospital visits are required for some very basic treatments and that the Central Jail Hospital is in fact working as a referral centre,” the bench said.
The court also said that “it appears that the facilities at the Central Jail Hospital, Tihar, New Delhi, have not been examined or improved upon for a long time. The above comprehensive proposal (given by the jail doctor) reflects that important matters such has filling-up of posts of specialists and medical officers are pending.
“Forty-nine posts recently created for the Mental Health Unit are still awaiting engagement of experts. Several deficiencies in infrastructure are pointed out which include essential equipment and the facilities in the casualty, de-addiction centre and behavioural therapy ward as well as basic infrastructure for doctors, amongst other improvements,” it noted.
The court was hearing a PIL initiated by it to look into the medical facilities available for prisoners in the Central Jail, Tihar.
In the same matter, the court is also looking into the infrastructure available at the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital which provides medical facilities to undertrials and convicts lodged in Tihar Jail.
The court had taken up the issue after it received a complaint alleging that high profile prisoners were being permitted repeated and prolonged medical visits outside the jail.