Videoconferencing facility for remand extension in two months

CHENNAI SEPT. 26. With the President giving his assent to an amendment to the Cr.P.C., the process of introducing a videoconferencing facility for extending remand for prisoners has been set in motion.

The Rs. 7-crore project, which would link eight central prisons and two special prisons for women with 62 court complexes in the State, is expected to be completed in two months. The groundwork had already been completed and tenders floated for supply and installation of equipment in 78 locations in prisons and courts, a Prison department official told The Hindu.

The idea of starting the facility has been on authorities mind for the past few years. It is being officially pointed out that if the system is introduced, it will help in avoiding movement of prisoners only for extending their remand. Besides, taking the prisoners, particularly gangsters, to courts is fraught with other dangers such as possible attacks by rival groups enroute. Also, prisoners have to wait for a long time until cases in which they are involved are taken up for hearing. Above all, overcrowding in courts and its attendant problems, wastage of fuel and police manpower can be avoided.

Following up the suggestion that videoconferencing could be introduced to link jails and courts, the State Government conducted a demonstration of the facility in April 2000 to ensure technical feasibility. Though the arrangement was seen as a possibility, it was found that legal sanction was necessary before it could be introduced. Accordingly, the State Government decided to amend Section 167 (ii) (b) of Cr.P.C, which laid down that "no magistrate shall authorise detention in any custody under this section unless the accused is produced before him". Initially, it was thought that the amendment could be "....produced before him either in person or through the medium of electronic media". After obtaining High Court approval, the amendment was sent to the President. Clarifications were sought from the Government. Later, the President gave his assent to the change in the law.

As per the amendment, the provision will read as "...produced before him either in person or through the medium of electronic videolinking," the official said.

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