The Delhi High Court was on Friday informed that video-calling facility or ‘e-mulakats’ is not provided to Tihar Jail inmates with families abroad due to security reasons, but foreign prisoners can have legal interviews twice a week like other inmates.
The statement was made by Tihar jail authority on a status report filed on petition by Delhi riots accused Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita seeking several prison reforms.
Justice Yashwant Varma asked the counsel for the authorities to state the reason why allowing video-conferencing would lead to security concerns and said while such a restriction could be understandable for high-risk prisoners, why should it be imposed on other ordinary inmates.
If the inmate is in the VC (video-conferencing) room and the credentials are verified by you, why cannot e-mulakat be permitted, asked the court.
In July last year, the high court had granted time to the jail authority to respond to the issue of foreign inmates not being allowed to use video conference facilities to speak to their families.
During the hearing, the counsel for the petitioners said most concerns raised in the petition filed last year had been addressed, but the issues pertaining to foreign prisoners still remained.
The lawyer also said that the calling facility available for foreign inmates was at an “exorbitant rate”.
In the status report, the jail authority said foreign prisoners are given consular access according to the rules and the consulate officials of the country concerned are allowed to visit or interview a prisoner for arranging legal representation for them or for any other purpose only subject to approval of the appropriate government authority.
“It is submitted that video-calling facility/e-mulakats are 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.
“Every foreign prisoner is allowed to have legal interview for the preparation of an appeal or for procuring bail or for any other legal purpose. The prisoner is allowed to have legal interviews twice in a week like other prisoners,” the status report said.
The petitioners had moved the high court during their judicial custody in connection with a Delhi riots case to allow them and other inmates to have a choice of physical or virtual meetings to communicate with family and friends as is provided under the Prison Rules of 2018.
The court listed the case for hearing on February 9 next year.
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