Bill faces roadblock in Rashtrapathi Bhavan

Chennai Nov. 7. The Tamil Nadu Government's proposed law to facilitate extension of remand of prisoners through videoconferencing has got stuck at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan.

Six months after the Assembly passed the Bill, the President is yet to give his nod. And, he is believed to have sought a clarification from the Centre whether he could give the stamp of approval. Only after the President's assent is obtained, will the Bill become law.

As a similar Andhra Pradesh law to provide for extension of videoconferencing was challenged, the President has referred the matter to the Centre, according to senior officials.

The Tamil Nadu Assembly adopted the Bill amending the Criminal Procedure Code during the budget session last May, to enable judges to extend remand without the prisoners being produced before them. In short, it provided for Judges sitting in courthalls to "see and talk" to prisoners in jails and extend their remand.

As there were several dreaded militants in the State's jails, the `automated" remand would avert their escape on way to court from prisons, the Tamil Nadu Government felt that the legislation was necessary.

Though the Bill has run into a roadblock at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan, the Government has gone ahead with the purchase of equipment for implementing the videoconferencing system. The supplementary budget estimates presented in the recent Assembly session states an advance of Rs. 71.60 lakhs had been sanctioned from the Contingency Fund towards installation of the videoconferencing facility.

Meanwhile, another Bill amending the Cr.P.C to provide for extending the maximum period of police remand from 15 to 30 days is set to be referred to the President. While officials insist that the suggestion for the legislation came up during a conference of Superintendents of Police and Collectors three years ago and that it was accepted by the then DMK regime, this Bill has drawn flak from human rights activists.

The People's Union For Civil Liberties charged that the proposed law lent credence to the view that the Government was "hell-bent" on giving a "legal colour" to consolidation of a police state.

"Extension of police remand is not merely a question of granting more time for investigation, it makes serious inroads into the liberties of the citizens," the State president, V.Suresh said, in a statement here.

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