LAHORE – MIAN DAWOOD - It is a pity that a human being had died while requesting for medical attention in Punjab, Lahore High Court Justice Ibadur Rehman Lodhi observed while taking strict notice of a prisoner who passed away owing to the unavailability of basic medical facilities at a hospital of Shahkot central jail.

Expressing dismay at the inhuman response of the Punjab prison department to an ill prisoner, the court further observed that the death of prisoner Muhammad Mumtaz should be an eye opener for all authorities concerned while demanding to give prisoners the status of human being at least.

The death of the prisoner has raised questions on the health facilities provided by district jails of the Punjab. The prisoner who had died moved his bail application in the LHC on the medical grounds citing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (a common lungs disease).

The court had summoned medical examination report from the superintendent of Shahkot central jail of district Sargodha. Superintendent of the jail Mansoor and Medical Officer Dr Muhammad Iftikhar appeared before the court along with reports and record. Quoting the medical examination report, the superintendent said Muhammad Mumtaz, the under trial prisoner, was suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease for which he needed detailed investigations like CT Scan Chest and Bronchoscope. However, these facilities were not available in the jail hospital, the medical report said.

The report further revealed that the deceased prisoner was also investigated for Hepatitis-C Virus disease but was required to be examined further but tests like PCR were not even available in District Headquarters Hospital at Sargodha.

What was more shocking was the apathy on the part of the government functionaries when an additional prosecutor general defended the jail authorities and tried to convince the judge by saying the court should forget the matter as the prisoner had died and his bail application had become in-fructuous.

The judge rebuked the all who were defending the Punjab government and observed that the death of a prisoner was a serious matter and enough for opening the eyes of concerned authorities. Lamenting the inhuman behavior of provincial jails authorities, the judge in his order said that the prisoners particularly under trial prisoners must be given the status of at least human being.

“The prisoners are not reptiles; they must not be left at the mercy of time, it is pity that human being died in search of medicine and treatment,” the judge noted in his order. “What sort of facilities is being provided in the Jail Hospital and also in the Headquarters Hospital maintained for public at large by the Government?” the court questioned.

The judge directed the superintendent jail and medical officer to prepare a complete chart showing the convicts arid under trial prisoners in Shahkot jail, their state of health, the medical facilities required to be provided and level of provisions of medical facilities and medicine inside the jail.

Both officers are further directed by the court to ensure the weekly medical checkup of all the prisoners and to submit reports before the court as per the prison rules. Unsatisfied by the jail authorities, the court also directed the provincial chief secretary to arrange such exercise in all jails in the Punjab and to place on record the requisite information as highlighted above in respect of every jail in the Punjab before Nov 26, next date of hearing.