Northeast Delhi violence: Delhi HC disposes of plea seeking video conferencing facility for jail inmates




New Delhi [India], February 9 (ANI): The Delhi High Court on Thursday disposed of a plea seeking video conferencing facility for jail inmates whose family members are abroad without issuing any further direction, saying that the relief sought is not required post Covid-19.

Justice Prathiba M Singh on Thursday disposed of the plea moved by Pinjra Tod activists Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita holding that the relief sought is not further required as the pandemic is over.

The court also noted that the petitioners have been released on bail in July and the video conferencing facility was provided in view of the pandemic while they were in custody.

The counsel for the petitioner submitted that their bail has been challenged and the matter is pending before the Supreme Court.

The counsel requested another date to show if any other issues are not addressed.

To which the court responded that we couldn’t keep it pending if there is any other issue that will be governed as per the jail manual.

The court granted them liberty to approach the court if there is any change in the circumstances.

The court also noted the submissions of Tihar jail counsel Gautam Narayan.

The court said that the petition has been pending since February 2021 and a report was sought from the Delhi government.

"On the same date directions were issued to the superintendent of Tihar jail to arrange the video conferencing facility for the petitioners in order to enable them to join court proceedings through video conferencing, the court noted in the order on Thursday.

"Thereafter, the Delhi Government on April 13, 2021, filed its status report, pursuant to which detailed directions were issued in respect of physical meetings, computer centre and legal aid to the petitioner etc, the court said.

The court further noted that the other reliefs sought earlier have been dealt with by the Tihar jail authorities.

"The matter came to be considered on a subsequent occasion on May 3, 2021, when tele calling facility was provided to the petitioner. Tele calling facility, E Mulakat, vaccination of inmates, monetary charges and other reliefs sought were dealt with," the court said.

"A proper computer centre was also directed to set up in order to enable under trials and inmates to appear before courts and to interact with their families, friends and their lawyers," the court said further.

"Detailed directions have also been passed on May 5, 2021, on the various which were being raised. Over the said period both the petitioner were also released on bail," the court noted further.

Today, the learned counsel for the petitioner raised the concern regarding the E Mulakat facility to inmates whose relatives are foreigners. In respect, thereof a circular of December 26, 2022, was placed on record which clearly states that said facility is covered by the exception, the exception is terrorist activities and offence against the State, and the said facility would be available to other inmates.

Notably, the Delhi jail authorities in November 2022 informed the Delhi High court that due to security reasons, the video conferencing facility cannot be provided to jail inmates whose relatives are abroad.

The petitioners have sought video conferencing (VC) facility to jail inmates to talk to their relatives abroad.

It was submitted that video-calling facility/E-Mulakat is not provided for families of inmates residing abroad due to security reasons. However, telephonic voice calls are permissible once a week to the inmate whose family members are residing abroad, on request, the status report stated.

The petitioner’s counsel had submitted that the telephonic facility is at an exorbitant rate starting from Rs 400.

"What is the security issue in providing VC facility to jail inmate when he is in the jail room and the credentials of the relatives abroad are verified," the court asked the proxy counsel.

"This can be done in case of ordinary inmates, if not in the case of high-risk inmates," it said further.Natasha Narwal had been granted bail by the Delhi High Court in a larger conspiracy case related to the northeast Delhi riots of February 2020.

While she was in jail, she had moved an application for a video conference facility for jail inmates whose relatives are abroad. (ANI)

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