The Madras High Court on Friday directed the Inspector-General of Jails, Puducherry, to permit technicians deputed by cellular service providers to finalise the modalities for installing jammers inside the Central Jail at Kalapet, Puducherry.

Justice K.K. Sasidharan passed the order on writ petitions by three cellular service providers who challenged the Puducherry District Collector’s order directing removal of all cell phone towers within a radius of 1.5 km from the Central Jail. The reason behind the order appeared to be that the towers made the jammers ineffective allowing prisoners to use mobiles to carry out illegal acts with the help of associates outside. In the petitions, Bharti Airtel, Indus Towers and Reliance Communications contended that the towers were commissioned long ago at a cost of nearly Rs. 1.50 crore per tower. The collector’s decision would affect the service providers financially as well as from the service point of view.

The petitioners’ counsel submitted that the Puducherry government purchased substandard jammers from China. The equipment installed in the jail was not of good quality and frequency. This was the reason for the poor working of jammers inside the jail. This could not be a reason for ordering the removal of the cell phone towers in and around the prison complex.

Following a suggestion by the court, the petitioners’ counsel submitted that the service providers were agreeable to provide jammers inside the jail and to maintain it and would ensure that the equipment worked in good condition. The Puducherry government submitted that the administration wanted only a ban on cell phones inside the jail. If the petitioners agreed to provide jammers, the government would not insist on the removal of the mobile towers. However, they should take licence from the prescribed authority.

Mr. Justice Sasidharan said the government was correct in its contention that the cell phone facility available in the jail, due to non-working of jammers, should be put to an end.

However, the petitioners’ interest should also be protected. The petitioners wanted to depute their technical personnel to visit the jail next week to assess the situation and to finalise the modalities for installing the jammers.

The Judge directed the District Collector to convene a meeting of the petitioners and file a report on October 10.