Delhi HC asks Tihar prison authorities to file detailed affidavit on lack of video conferencing facilities for foreign inmates
The Delhi High Court has asked authorities at Tihar prison to explain why foreign inmates are not allowed to contact their families via video conference, and also raised questions about the lack of computers in the facility.
Delhi HC was hearing a petition filed in February 2021 by activists Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, who were under arrest in connection with the 2020 North East Delhi riots case. The duo had filed the petition in court, pointing out the lack of facilities for detainees on trial and calling for reforms.
Over the past year, the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) has also stepped in and filed reports on various issues such as inability of prisoners to contact their families, lack of educational and health care tools.
On Thursday, a bench of Judge Yashwant Verma requested a report from Tihar prison authorities on what is being done to strengthen the existing IT infrastructure in the prison.
In an affidavit filed in July last year, Tihar authorities said video conferencing facilities could not be provided to inmates whose families do not reside in India. He cited “security reasons” as the basis for the policy, even though video conferencing facilities are provided to Indian inmates whose families are in India.
“File a detailed situation report. It’s not enough,” Judge Verma said during a brief hearing Thursday.
The DSLSA report filed last year also noted the need for additional computers and other infrastructure in the prison, which would be used for computer training of inmates as part of the rehabilitation program, and to allow inmates to speak to their families via videoconference.
The initial orders in the case, passed in February 2021, had addressed the issue of time allowed for VC mulaqaat (meeting) between detainees and their families, as the video call was only allowed for 15 minutes even though the time of mulaqaat authorized by the Manual prison is 30 minutes. The court had also considered issues related to Covid restrictions and inmate safety.
September 20 has been set as the next hearing date for the case.
The plea was filed in the Delhi High Court in February 2021 while the two activists were still incarcerated. The petition raised several concerns about the need for prison reforms, including wages paid to inmates for prison work, better facilities for meeting inmates’ families, mental and physical health care for inmates, and more.
— ENDS —