The High Court on Tuesday observed that people in prisons have rights to health care and the service needs to be provided.
The HC bench of Justice KM Kamrul Kader and Justice Mohammad Ali made the observation when director general of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) Prof Dr Abul Bashar Mohammad Khurshid Alam appeared before it over recruitment of 48 doctors to the vacant posts in the prisons of the country following a writ petition.
The court also asked the DG to take necessary measures to ensure health services to the citizens round the clock.
The court fixed May 2 for the next hearing over the matter and relieved the DG from appearing before the court in-person.
Lawyer MJR Khan Robin appeared for the writ petitioner in the court while Attorney General AM Amin Uddin stood for the DG.
Attorney General AM Amin Uddin requested the court to consider the matter saying that DHGS failed to comply with its directive over recruitment of 48 doctors to the vacant posts in the prisons due to the Covid pandemic.
DGHS DG Khurshid Alam told the court, "The delay in appointing doctors in the jails is unintentional.”
He also said that he has already appointed doctors to all vacant posts. “The recruitment for 141 doctors have been completed and 136 of them have joined. The remaining five will join soon.”
Besides, the DG tendered an unconditional apology for the delay in implementing the order, said Lawyer MJR Khan Robin.
A draft policy is being prepared for the direct recruitment of doctors in prisons.
The court asked the prison authorities to submit a progress report on the draft policy within the next three months, he added.
On June 23, 2019, the court issued a rule asking the authorities concerned to submit a list on the capacity of prisons, the number of prisoners and doctors and the vacancies of doctors in all prisons across the country.
The jail authorities reported to the court in November 2019 that there were only 10 doctors against 141 posts in 68 prisons. After seeing the report, the High Court ordered recruitment of doctors in the prisons.
On September 21, 2021, it was reported to the court that 112 doctors were appointed in 68 prisons in the country against a total of 141 vacant posts.
Then the HC ordered the speedy appointment of doctors in the remaining vacant posts. But health authorities did not take any initiative in this regard.
Following an appeal, the court upheld the previous order on November 15 last year and ordered the Inspector General of Prisons and the Secretary to the Security Services Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs to submit a report on it.
Later, the Inspector General of Prisons submitted a report on December 13.
According to the report, 68 prisons and a prison hospital in the country have a total number of 141 posts of doctors at various levels. It was reported that that 93 doctors were appointed against 141 posts.
Later, the court ordered the recruitment of doctors to the remaining 38 vacant posts by January 7.
HC summoned the DGHS DG on January 17 as the order was not implemented even though it warned of taking action against those concerned for contempt of court.