All prisons will have video conferencing facility for legal interview with advocates of choice: Prison authority informs Delhi HC
Litigation News

All prisons will have video conferencing facility for legal interview with advocates of choice: Prison authority informs Delhi HC

The statement came in a petition challenging an order suspending legal interview/legal consultation of the inmates with the advocates of their choice on account of COVID-19.

Aditi Singh

A Delhi prison authority has informed the Delhi High Court that it has initiated video conferencing facility for the purpose of legal interview with private counsel in Jail No. 6 of Tihar Jail and the facility will be extended to the remaining prisons. (Ajit P Singh vs State)

The statement was made by a Delhi jail authority in a status report submitted by it to the Court in a petition challenging an order suspending legal interview/legal consultation of the inmates with the advocates of their choice on account of COVID-19.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan was informed that Delhi prison has started the facility of video conferencing of prisoners with the visiting panel advocates of the Delhi High Court Legal Services Committee with effect from June 22 for legal aid to prisoners in respect of their cases before the Delhi High Court.

In Tihar's jail no 6, which is the women's jail, video conferencing facility with an inmate's private counsel has begun from June 24 on the basis of a request from the counsel, the prison authority added.

This facility will also be extended to remaining prisons within a period of 10 to 15 days, the Court was informed.

As per the status report, the facility to telephonically contact one's private counsel was already provided to jail inmates.

It was clarified that in urgent cases like filing, bail, etc, the request for video conferencing will also be considered.

The prison authority added that after a fortnight, the video conferencing facility to private lawyers for the weekly legal interview may also be extended.

Two petitions challenging the order suspending legal interview/legal consultation of the inmates with private counsel are pending before the Court.

Petitioner, Advocate Ajit P Singh had assailed the order as being in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution. He had argued that the order denied the right of legal consultation with advocates of one's choice and thus denied the right of fair opportunity to approach appropriate Courts for a legal remedy.

Notice in the petition was issued earlier this month.

The second petition, which was taken up for hearing for the first time on Monday, is by Advocate Sarthak Maggon who pushed for a video conferencing facility for legal interview with an advocate of an inmate's choice. He stated that the step would prove to be a quantum leap in accessibility to justice amid COVID-19. Maggon was represented by Senior Advocates Vikas Pahwa, Arvind Nayar.

After taking on record the status report and the submissions made by the parties, the Court has directed prison authority to file another report on the issue

The matter would be heard next one July 7.

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