The much-hyped video-conferencing facility linking jails with courts in the State has failed to take off. Lack of interest among courts and the jail department in posting cases to be heard under the system has been the major stumbling block.
However, the office of the Director General of Prisons and Correctional Services (DGPCS) informed that it had already spent Rs 3.64 crore in this regard in Thiruvananthapuram, Kottayam, Ernakulam and Thrissur jails. Interestingly, the 13th Finance Commission has sanctioned Rs 13.62 crore to Kerala during last month to bring all jails and courts in the State under the facility.
According to DGPCS information officer K Vasanthakumari, the department has already utilised Rs 3.40 crore from the sanctioned amount of Rs 3.64 crore from the State government for setting up video-conferencing studios. The four jails had a total of 43 studios and they all were in working condition, she said. However, the department has no clue on how to use Rs 13.62 crore sanctioned by the Finance Commission as video-conferencing is not happening in any of the jails.
“Look at the case of Ernakulam jail. The facility remains idle right from the beginning. No case was heard through it so far. However, 20 prisoners managed to escape when they were taken to the court after the video-conferencing facility was installed. Seven of them escaped after attacking accompanying jail officials,” pointed out a jail official, who preferred anonymity. According to him, if implemented properly, video-conferencing can be limited to carrying prison inmates to courts on rare occasions. “It would be a great relief to the under-staffed prison department,” he said.
According to a DGPCS official, the system was also aimed at reducing chances of prisoners gaining access to contraband items while being transported to courts for trial and back. It was also designed to avoid quarrels between prisoners as well as their rivals during transportation and on court premises. “Unwanted controversies like the recent meeting of K.K Lathika MLA in Kozhikode with her under-trial husband P Mohanan can be avoided if video-conferencing is implemented properly,’’ said a jail official in Kochi.
Even Jail DGP Alexander Jacob told Kerala High Court recently that the system failed to pick up steam because the courts didn’t post cases to be produced through the video-conferencing system. Video-conferencing system was ideal and cost-effective for trials and remand extension, he said. The system was introduced in Thiruvananthapuram, Kottayam, Ernakulam, and Thrissur jails in July 2010 following an order from the high court.
It was public sector company Keltron that readied the studios with the help of Kerala Police Housing Construction Corporation.