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Every second prisoner in Haryana attends court hearing virtually, minister terms it a big reform

Haryana jail minister Ranjit Singh Chautala says this system also reduces risks involved in the transportation of prisoners between the jails and courts.

Written by Sukhbir Siwach | Chandigarh |
April 11, 2022 6:30:05 am
Figure shows that nearly 50 per cent of the undertrial prisoners are being produced before the courts via video conferencing in the state.

In December 2021, as many as 17,617 undertrial prisoners appeared before the courts from jails via videoconferencing in Haryana while another 18,738 undertrial prisoners were taken to the courts from jails by the policemen to present before the judges.

This figure shows that nearly 50 per cent of the undertrial prisoners are being produced before the courts via video conferencing in the state. Haryana jail minister Ranjit Singh Chautala termed it a reform aimed at saving the resources including manpower and financial expenditure. Chautala says this system also reduces risks involved in the transportation of prisoners between the jails and courts. “We are expanding the infrastructure required to arrange the appearance of more prisoners before the courts from jails via videoconferencing after a green signal for the same from Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar recently,” added Chautala.

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On the trial basis, the jail administration had introduced the facility of video conferencing in 2009 itself but it proved useful during the lockdown which was put in place to control the corona pandemic in 2020. In April 2020, only 18 undertrial prisoners appeared before the courts physically while 10,058 prisoners made their appearance before the judges via videoconferencing from their jails itself. In the past two years, the capacity of appearance of prisoners via videoconferencing has increased more than double.

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According to officials, in the past two years nearly 3.92 lakh prisoners appeared before the courts from jails via videoconferencing while the number of those who were taken to the courts physically is nearly 2.5 lakh. A large number of the undertrials are lodged to the jails ranging from a few days to few months and they are replaced by others following their bail and arrest of others.

According to Chautala, currently an expenditure of nearly Rs 25 crore annually is spent on the transportation of undertrials between jails to the courts through their physical appearance even when almost half others show their appearance through video conferencing. Chautala says the current expenditure can be saved following expansion of videoconferencing further.

Undertrials and prisoners

Currently, there are nearly 18,500 undertrials and around 6,000 prisoners in all 20 jails of the state. Official sources admit a little overcrowding in the jails citing current capacity of the jails which is 21,000 against the present strength of nearly 24,500 inmates but insist that this is within the norms as fixed by the Supreme Court. “As per the norms, up to 32,000 prisoners can be kept in the state’s jails as up to 1.5 times more inmates are allowed than the capacity of the prisons. With the construction of a new jail in Rewari and additional barracks in the jails of Bhiwani and Sonipat, we will be able to provide required space as per the norms by the end of this year itself,” said an officer.

The concerns

In case of physical appearance before the courts, the undertrials often seem to be meeting their lawyers and relatives in the court premises. During this period, they can share if they are facing any difficulties during the jails. Not only this, they can tell the same to the court too whenever they are produced before a judge physically.

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