New Delhi, Jun 29 (PTI) The prisons authority here told the Delhi High Court on Monday that a video conferencing facility has been started from June 22 for all the prisoners to get in touch with the legal aid lawyers.
All legal consultations had been suspended since March 25 following the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
Besides, video conferencing facility for women inmates, lodged in Jail no. 6 of Tihar Jail, to consult with their private lawyers has started from June 24, a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan was informed by Delhi government additional standing counsel Satyakam, appearing for the Delhi Prisons authority.
Satyakam also told the bench that the video conferencing facility to consult private lawyers would be available in all jails in the national capital within 10-15 days.
Presently, the prisoners, except those in Jail no. 6, are being allowed to consult private lawyers over the phone only, he said.
The submissions were made during the hearing of two separate PILs by two different lawyers -- Ajit P Singh and Sarthak Maggon -- seeking directions to the prison authorities to permit legal consultation of the inmates with their private advocates.
The high court on June 15 had issued notice to the Delhi government and prison authorities on Singh's plea, while Maggon's petition was taken up for the first time on Monday.
Both petitions have now been listed for hearing on July 7, by when the prison authorities have assured to file another status report with regard to the video conference facility made available to the prisoners to consult their lawyers.
Senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, appearing for Maggon, said he will peruse the submissions made in the status report filed by Satyakam and will point out his concerns, if any, on the next date.
In the status report, the prison authorities have also said that requests to it by private lawyers/ prisoners for video conference facility, in respect of urgent filing of bail applications, petitions or for preparing for arguments, would also be considered.
The prison authority's lawyer, during the hearing, also told the court that soon the video conferencing facility might also be made available to the prisoners to converse with family members.
Singh, in his plea, has said the Delhi Prisons has suspended the legal interview or consultation of the inmates with their advocates of their choice in jails here due to the pandemic from March 25 till date.
The prison has made it compulsory to take legal advice or consultation and drafting of the cases by jail visiting advocates through Delhi Legal Services Authority only, he has said.
“Therefore, the respondent (Delhi government) has violated the Article 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution by not allowing the inmates of Delhi prisons to take legal advice or consultations by way of personal meetings and peruse their cases by way of advocate of their choice,” Singh has claimed in his plea filed through advocate Lav Kumar Agrawal.
The petition has sought that the Delhi government's March 25 circular be declared as “unconstitutional” and said the authorities have denied the right of legal consultation of the inmates with their advocates and have denied the right of fair opportunity to approach appropriate courts for their legal remedy. PTI HMP SKV SA