With more than 3,000 convicts across Delhi being granted bail or furlough to prevent overcrowding in jails in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the Delhi High Court has devised a new way of making sure convicts mark their attendance — via WhatsApp video calls and through Google Maps.
In three different orders temporarily suspending the jail terms of three convicts, Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani said the step has been taken “in view of the dire need of decongesting prisons, considering the unprecedented public health emergency existing at this time”.
Justice Bhambhani ordered that the convicts, Ompal, Rahat and Babu Lal, make a video call to the investigating officer or share their live location via WhatsApp so they don’t have to visit the police station every week.
“The appellant will make a video call every Friday between 11 am and 11.30 am to the IO, and in case the IO is no longer in service or is otherwise unavailable, then to the SHO of the police station where the case was registered. (The appellant will) also ‘drop-a-pin’ on Google Maps, so that the IO/SHO can verify the appellant’s presence and location,” state Justice Bhambhani’s orders in all three cases.
In the case related to Ompal (41), the judge ordered that “this court is persuaded to grant to the appellant interim suspension of sentence for a period of 45 days”. As per the prosecution, Ompal, while working as a driver of a van that loaded money in ATM machines, had stolen Rs 51 lakh after handing drugged food to those accompanying him. He is serving eight years in jail.
Ompal has sought interim suspension of sentence for two months, on the ground that he has a boy aged 14 and twin girls aged two. He told the court that his wife had taken up a teaching job, but since the school was closed, she was not being paid and was unable to sustain the family.
The court suspended Rahat’s jail term until July 17, while Babu Lal will stay out of jail for three months.
The court, in three different orders passed on April 20, also said: “Considering the prevailing lockdown, the furnishing of surety as a condition of bail, is dispensed with at this stage.”
Rahat (30), in judicial custody since March 4, is serving six months in jail for rash and negligent driving, which led to the death of a person riding pillion on a scooter. His counsel contended that Rahat would be exposed to avoidable and grave health risk in prison.
The court directed that Rahat “will not leave the State of Haryana without permission of the court and ordinarily reside in his place of residence”.
Babu Lal (73) is serving 10 years in jail term for sexually abusing a minor. While granting him relief, the court said, “Although the record shows that the applicant has only been in prison since February 24, 2020, and that he has been convicted of heinous offences under the POCSO Act, in the unprecedented circumstances of a public health emergency and the consequent need to decongest prisons… this court is persuaded to grant to the appellant interim suspension of sentence for a period of three months.
“The appellants shall furnish to the Jail Superintendent their cell phone number, which is kept active and switched on at all times,” the court said.
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