HC disposes of plea against the suspension of legal interviews with prisoners

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday disposed of off a petition against the suspension of legal interviews in prisons after the jail authorities informed that a fresh circular has been issued permitting legal interviews with jail inmates via video conference.

“The respondents have issued a circular extending the facility of legal interviews through video conferencing to all inmates across jails. Looking at the said development, we are not inclined to pass any further directions,” said a division bench of the High Court presided over by Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan.

The court, however, asked the authorities to consider the additional suggestions submitted by petitioner Sarthak Maggo in order to make the said system “user friendly”.

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The directions were passed while the court was hearing a petition filed by Maggo seeking directions to the jail authorities to setup a web link for legal mulakats and for conducting regular legal mulakats telephonically or through video conference to ensure access to justice to the inmates of the Tihar Prison Complex.

In its circular, the jail authorities stated that the applications received through email from the private counsels shall be considered by the Superintendent of Jails. To this, the petitioner suggested that the contact information of the Superintendents of all Jails shall be mentioned along with the above.

“This would ensure that Counsels are not tendering their applications for Virtual Mulakats with prisoners to inappropriate authority, and that the Mulakats are not delayed due to administrative reasons. Moreover, it is suggested that for coordination purposes and to avoid delays in applications by Counsels, the email IDs and telephone lines are manned, and prompt responses are received,” the petitioner said.

The petitioner also suggested that a transparent mechanism may be set up wherein the Counsels and other applicants are given full disclosure of the reasons for rejection of their application. The jail authorities in the circular had stated that the Superintendent would take a decision on the request on the merit or verification of vakalatnama and identity of applicant.

The petitioner stated that there would be some counsels who would need urgent consultation and such requests may be accepted and the slot may be given within a period of 48 hours or a shorter period of time as the court may deem fit.

The plea filed by Maggo had alleged that the discontinuation of these legal interviews has led to delays in both access and administration of justice because both the advocates and inmates are struggling to establish connection for the purpose of seeking appropriate remedies.

“The physical legal mulakats were suspended vide order dated 25.03.2020. Thereafter telephonic legal mulakats were to be set up. However no such telephone setup has been provided so far,” the petition read.

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