Plea for weekly meetings, virtual access to med professionals for prisoners:HC seeks AAP govt stand

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New Delhi, Feb 17 (PTI) The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought response of the AAP government and the prison authorities on a plea seeking various facilities, like weekly physical or virtual meetings with friends, family and lawyers and access to medical professionals via video conference, for prisoners lodged in jails here.

Justice Prathiba M Singh asked the Delhi government and Director General (Prisons) to file a status report on the issues raised by two JNU students -- Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita -- who are also Pinjra Tod activists and listed the matter for hearing on April 13.

Pinjra Tod (Break the Cage) was founded in 2015 to make hostels and paying guest accommodations less restrictive for women students.

Narwal and Kalita, arrested last year in May in connection with the communal riots in north east Delhi and in judicial custody presently, have sought a direction to the DG Prisons to allow them and other inmates to have a choice of physical or virtual 'mulaqaats' or meetings to communicate with family and friends as is provided under the Prison Rules of 2018.

The two students, represented by advocate Adit S Pujari, have also sought a direction to the prison authorities to permit them and other inmates 'access to accredited doctors, therapists and other medical professionals through video conferencing facilities'.

They have also sought access to research supervisors and other professionals through video conferencing 'for the purpose of completing education'.

Besides these, the other reliefs sought by them in their petition are access to eggs and non-vegetarian food and amending or formulating of rules 'to permit adherence to norms of natural justice and prisoner participation in disciplīnary proceedings'.

Narwal and Kalita were arrested by the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police and booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code including rioting, unlawful assembly and attempt to murder.

They have also been booked under the stringent anti-terror law - Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in a separate case related to the communal violence in north east Delhi in February last year, for allegedly being part of a 'premeditated conspiracy' in the riots.

Communal clashes had broken out in northeast Delhi on February 24, 2020 after violence between citizenship law supporters and protesters spiralled out of control leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured.

In all, four cases have been registered against Kalita, including in relation to the northeast Delhi riots earlier this year and violence in old Delhi's Daryaganj area during protests against the CAA in December 2019. Narwal is accused in three cases. PTI HMP RKS RKS