ADG, ATS write to Maharashtra home department

Over a month after the escape of alleged Indian Mujahideen operative Afzal Usmani from the Mumbai sessions court premises, Additional Director-General (ADG) Prisons, Maharashtra, Meeran Borwankar has written a letter to the State’s Home department requesting that all accused being tried in various terror and underworld-related cases be produced in court through videoconferencing.

The letter accessed by The Hindu stated that as all the prisons in the State were equipped with videoconferencing facility, adopting such a method would mean not stretching thin the manpower required for escorting the accused. There are 215 prisons in the State of which nine are central prisons which house over 24,000 prisoners.

Meanwhile, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has also sent a letter to the Home department stating that it was going to appeal to the designated court to allow the accused in serious cases to be handcuffed. “We have already moved applications in the courts to handcuff the accused who are being tried in the August 2012 serial blasts in Pune and 2006 Aurangabad arms haul cases. The court has asked the defence lawyers to file their opinion. If the decision is in our favour then we will follow the same in other terror cases,” a senior police officer told The Hindu.

“When the undertrials are being produced only for extension of their judicial custody, videoconferencing is a better option. It saves us manpower used in escorting these criminals and also ensures that they don’t escape,” added the officer.

It was on September 20, Afzal Usmani, accused in the 2008 Ahmedabad and Surat blasts escaped.

Usmani, a car thief, was the first arrest in the IM case by the Mumbai crime branch. His stolen car was found laden with explosives in Surat; luckily the bombs were discovered and defused by the police. Usmani’s arrest led to the cracking of the media-wing of the IM by the Mumbai crime branch in September 2008.

The police claim the module is responsible for all the blasts in India since 2005.

Deputy Inspector-General of Police, ATS, Amitesh Kumar was asked to prepare a report on the incident and also make recommendations on how the security could be strengthened. The details of the report were first published by The Hindu on October 6. The report highlighted the chronic problems faced by the escort teams which were under-staffed and overworked. The ATS also recommended that the trial in serious and sensitive cases be conducted through videoconferencing.