High Court: Duty of the State to provide medical treatment to the prisoners

High Court: Duty of the State to provide medical treatment to the prisoners

The Maharashtra government was recently directed by the Bombay High Court to pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakhs to the family of an undertrial prisoner who died in jail custody [Vishnu Sandipan Kute vs State of Maharashtra].

Facts of the case

The Petition was filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India by the parents, wife and children of the deceased undertrial prisoner, Pratap Kute. He suffered from spondylosis and had filed an application before the Magistrate requesting to shift him to Government Hospital for medical treatment. It was observed that the Superintendent of the Police had the capacity to provide the deceased with proper care and medical facilities and on such basis the application was dismissed. Despite his request at the very initial stage, it was only when his condition deteriorated that he was shifted to the Government Hospital. The Doctor of the Government Hospital had advised shifting the deceased to Government Medical College and Hospital for further treatment but the Police Constable refused to do so. As a result, Pratap passed away on 27th February 2012.

In an affidavit the Superintendent of Police, Anil Subhash denied that the deceased died due to the negligence of the jail or state authority. He stated that at the time of admission, the deceased did not have any ailment. On 23rd February 2012 the deceased complained of chest pain and back pain and was immediately taken to the District Government Hospital along with two guards. One of the guards informed about the demise of the prisoner upon which an inquiry was conducted and disciplinary action was recommended against Police guard Chaudante for his negligence in duty. The Superintended further stated that the deceased was HIV positive and died due to its complications and was not subjected to any ill-treatment in the custody.

Arguments by Learned Counsels

The Counsel representing the Petitioners submitted that Pratap died while he was in prison due to the negligence of the jail authorities and seek compensation for the same.

The Assistant Public Prosecutor (APP) on behalf of the State stated that the deceased did not inform the doctor about his ailment who used to regularly visit the jail. When the deceased complained of severe pain, he was shifted to the hospital immediately and was provided with the necessary medical treatment therefore the jail authorities cannot be blamed for the death of the deceased. Also, as per the three inquiries conducted by respective authorities, it was concluded that there were no findings of custodial death or any ill-treatment towards the deceased.

Observations by High Court

The Court noted that the deceased had filed an application before the Magistrate on 7th February 2012 for better medical treatment but the request was rejected and observed that it is the duty of the Superintendent to provide specialized medical treatment to the prisoners. The records reveal that the deceased was admitted to the district hospital on 23rd February 2012 and on 27th February 2012 he died. The cause of death as per the post-mortem report indicated tuberculosis of liver and spleen in seropositive case.

The Court pointed out that the deceased did not receive any treatment while he was in jail after the application was filed before the Magistrate till, he was shifted to the hospital. The jail authorities had only taken his blood sample on 10th February 2012. The records further reveal even after being advised to shift the deceased from hospital to Government Medical College and Hospital. The on-duty constable refused to do the same and caused danger to the deceased’s life. Although there was no custodial violence or torture the simple request of better medical treatment being denied to the deceased resulted in his demise.

The excerpts from the judgement:

There has been total negligence and lapse on the part of the jail authorities in providing adequate, effective and proper medical treatment and on the part of the police guard on duty who declined to shift the deceased Pratap Kute to Government Medical College, Aurangabad which has resulted in his death.

The division bench of Justices Anuja Prabhudessai and RM Joshi emphasized on right to health enshrined in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution that the Prisoner was deprived of. Hence, the petitioners were entitled to a compensation of Rs. 10,00,000/- (Rupees Ten Lakhs Only) as they were deprived of love and affection of their loved one due to the negligence of the jail authority. The High Court directed the State of Maharashtra to pay the said amount within four weeks failing which the amount will carry an interest of 6% from the order date till the date of Payment.

Source: Bar and Bench

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