The Bombay High Court on Wednesday asked the Maharashtra government whether there had been any incidents of security breaches when voice and video call facilities were allowed for inmates in jails during the COVID-19 pandemic. and investigated why the installation was interrupted.
A divisional bench consisting of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice VG Bisht said it was not inclined to pass an urgent order allowing the resumption of video and voice calling facilities as the state government must first be permitted to file an affidavit.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation requesting the resumption of voice and video call facilities allowing inmates to communicate with their families and lawyers. The petition, filed by the NGO People’s Union for Civil Liberties, claimed that the possibility of voice and video calls for detainees was arbitrarily and abruptly stopped in 2021.
According to the plea, amid the COVID-19 pandemic in July 2020, prisons had set up voice and video call facilities for inmates. The court asked Attorney General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, representing the state government, to clarify why the facilities were removed and whether any security breach incident was reported when these facilities were made available during the pandemic. Kumbhakoni told the court he would seek instructions on the matter from the Inspector General (Prisons), but said there was a fear of a security breach as it would be unclear who the prisoners were talking to. detained.
Another reason for the suspension of video call facilities is the resumption of physical mulaqats (meetings), he said.
However, the petitioner’s lawyer, Rebecca Gonsalves, argued that video call facilities should be made permanent, independent of physical meetings.
To that, Chief Justice Datta said it was up to the state government to decide.
The court ordered the government to file its affidavit by June 10 and released the case for a rehearing on June 20.
Kumbhakoni further told the court that even though video call facilities were not available, inmates were allowed to make phone calls using coin-operated phone booths.
The petition claimed that, in accordance with the model prison manual published in 2016, the director of each prison must authorize inmates to use telephone and electronic communications against payment to contact their families and lawyers.
The petitioner requested that the government’s decision to shut down the voice and video call facilities be reversed and reversed as it violated the basic rights of inmates.
The decision to shut down voice and video calling facilities and allow only physical meetings imposes unnecessary hardship on family members and legal representatives of detainees, according to the plea.
Voice and video calls were convenient for inmates who were housed in jails away from where they lived, he said.
(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)