August 2, 2021 11:12:29 pm
Former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt who was convicted under the NDPS Act has moved a petition before the Gujarat High Court challenging two resolutions of the state home department pertaining to restricted access to telephone facilities for certain categories of prisoners.
The resolutions have also been challenged by seven accused in the 2008 bomb blasts. The two resolutions under challenge include one of April 2010, when on a pilot project basis for an initial period of three months, the Gujarat government’s home department had initiated telephone services in the Ahmedabad central jail and Vadodara central jail so as to “curb unauthorised use of mobile phones” and with an authorised phone facility, conversations can be recorded by the jail authorities, as is stated in the resolution.
However, this facility was made available to only those who were first-time offenders or first-time convicts and excluded “hardened criminals” and especially those charged with offences against the state, under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Prevention of Terrorism Act, Terrorist and Disruptive (Prevention) Acts ,the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, National Security Act, Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act, the Prevention of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activity Act, Arms and Explosive Devices Act and any other offence involving an act of treason against the state.
In January 2014, by way of a resolution issued by the home department, the telephone facility was directed to be implemented in all central, sub-district and special jails of the state of Gujarat and excluded the above-mentioned categories from accessing this facility, along with those charged with offences of rape, murder with intent of loot, acid attack, etc.
The two resolutions do not mention under which law such conditions were imposed. According to a lawyer, while section 59 of the Prisons Act grants the authority power, the same is required to be stated.
During a brief hearing of Bhatt’s plea on July 2, the state government through its pleader Manisha Shah had submitted that as per a June 21 departmental communication, telephone facilities as well as physical meetings were allowed, adding that “government decisions are motivated or guided by Covid-19 situations”. Shah had also urged the court that the petition be disposed of as Bhatt’s grievance stood addressed.
On Monday, senior advocate Mihir Joshi, representing Bhatt, brought to the court’s notice that as per a fresh departmental communication, it has been notified that phone facilities for certain categories of prisoners shall stand discontinued with effect from August 1.
The division bench has now sought the state government’s response on the limited aspect of the latest departmental communication, discontinuing telephone services despite the state’s assurance at the last hearing and has kept the matter for August 5. Meanwhile, the state’s reply on the broader challenge to the resolutions, remains pending after the notice was issued on July 2 and was kept returnable for August 2.
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