The Bombay High Court has asked the government to clarify whether Aadhaar card is mandatory for prisoners to get the Covid vaccine. The court observed that prison inmates should not be denied the vaccine because they do not have Aadhaar card.
The bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justice GS Kulkarni said that if Aadhaar card is made mandatory then it will have pan-India ramifications. The question was raised by the bench after it was informed that several prisoners were not getting the vaccine as they did not have a valid Aadhaar card.
In a bid to come up with a solution without compromising the need for Aadhaar card, the bench suggested, “If the Aadhaar card is coming in the way, then let Aadhaar registration camps be organised then and there (in prisons or vaccination centres for inmates) and such cards be issued”.
The court has directed Advocate General (AG) Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, who appeared for the state government, to discuss the issue with the Centre’s counsel, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, and inform the HC of their stand by May 4, reported Indian Express.
The court was informed that the prisons continue to be congested despite the High Power Committee’s guidelines on granting emergency parole and temporary bail to eligible prisoners. Senior Advocate Mihir Desai told the bench that the HPC met in April 2020 and that the process to release eligible prisoners should be an ongoing process.
To this, state’s counsel Kumbhakoni responded that there were 26 inmates across 47 prisons in the state, who were eligible for emergency parole but they did not wish to leave as they feel safer inside the prison as they do not have resources to sustain themselves outside.
Further, he submitted that the state had managed to get vaccination sites in 3 prisons out of 47 in the state however, that system was halted due to lack of vaccines and trained staff. He emphasised that the state itself is of the opinion that prisoners should be inoculated within jail premises. The court observed that there was severe shortage of medical personnel in prisons and asked the state to get back to it on this issue on May 4.
The court was also informed that 244 inmates and 117 prison staff had tested positive for COVID across the state until now.
(story will be updated with order)