Updated: February 23, 2022 8:02:39 am
A SPECIAL court on Monday said that jail authorities cannot deprive a prisoner from communicating with his family members, while directing them to permit an undertrial to make a phone call to his family once a week.
With cases of Covid-19 reducing, Taloja Central Prison has stopped phone call and video call facility this month after resuming physical mulaqats.
Nadeem Akhtar, an accused in the Mumbai 2011 serial blasts case, filed a plea before the special court stating that his family members live in Uttar Pradesh and are unable to travel to meet him. Jail authorities informed him that with physical mulaqats resuming, the facilities for video calls and phone calls – started in the state during the pandemic in March 2020 — cannot be continued.
“The relatives Of UTP (undertrial prisoner) are residing in another state. It is obviously difficult for them to attend the UTP at Taloja Central Prison. In view of the existing situation, it is difficult to compel them to attend from such a long distance,” Special Judge Rahul Bhosale said in his order. The court referred to an order by the Supreme Court which had held that a prisoner has a right to communicate with his family.
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“Even in the Model Prison Manual, 2016, such facility is widely made available to the prisoners. Thereby, it is convenient as well as justifiable for permitting the UTP to make phone call to his family members. The prison authority cannot deprive the UTP from meeting his family members in the existing situation,” the court said. It directed the superintendent to arrange for a phone call facility to Akhtar’s family, particularly his sister, once a week. It also directed the authorities to verify the phone numbers and maintain a record.
Akhtar has been behind bars since 2011 and the trial in the case is yet to begin.
Along with the Model Prison Manual, many prisons across the country have coin-box facilities for undertrials and convicts. Maharashtra Prison department had added 138 smartphones to the 76 existing coin-boxes for phone calls during the pandemic. Officials, however, said that it was a temporary arrangement which cannot be continued, apprehending misuse.
A committee chaired by Justice (retired) Dr S Radhakrishnan on Prison Reforms in 2017-18, set up by the state government for prison reforms, had recommended that phone calls should be allowed for 20 minutes for under-trials and convicts as revival and maintenance of family relations was important.
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