Karkardooma Court on Monday directed the Tihar jail authorities to provide a phone calling facility thrice a week for 5 minutes to 7 minutes to accused including Sharjeel Imam and Umar Khalid after considering their conduct report and other facts.
The court issued the direction while disposing of the 7 pleas moved by Sharjeel Imam, Umar Khalid, Gulfisha Fatima, Tasleem Khan, Shifa Ur Rehman, Athar Khan and Meeran Haider. They are accused in the larger Conspiracy of Delhi riots case and are presently lodged in Tihar Jail.
Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Amitabh Rawat allowed the application moved on behalf of Sharjeel Imam, Umar Khalid, Shifa Ur Rehman, Gulfisha Fatima, Athar Khan, Tasleem Khan and Meeran Haider.
"Considering the overall situation and the conduct report, the present applications are disposed off with the directions to the concerned Jail Superintendents to provide the said accused with the said inmate telephone call facility for 5 minutes for conversing with their family members thrice a week," said ASJ Rawat
The other conditions of the said calling facility, as incorporated in Rule 631 of Delhi Prison Rule, 2018 and the PHQ Circular dated 02.09.2022 be followed by the Jail Superintendents, the ASJ Rawat said.
The court directed to send the Copy of the order to DG (Prison) for onward transmission to the concerned Jail Superintendents for information and compliance. The jail authorities had filed the Conduct reports of the accused. As per the report, the conduct of applicants namely Shifa-ur-Rehman, Sharjeel Imam, Umar Khalid, Meeran Haider, Tasleem Ahmad and Athar Khan found satisfactory while applicant Gulfisha Fatima was warned.
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It was argued on behalf of the accused persons that since the beginning of their judicial custody, accused persons have been provided 05 minutes phone call facility with their family members on a daily basis which has been stopped. On the other hand, the jail authorities in their reply stated that in terms of Rule 631 of Delhi Prison Rules, 2018 and PHQ Circular dated 02.09.2022, the said inmates can call once a week.
The concerned Law Officers and Jail Superintendents had appeared and stated that under Rule 631 of Delhi Prison Rules, those prisoners were involved in the offence against State, terrorist activities, " as is the case here", and are not eligible for the said facility in the interest of public safety and order. However, Jail Superintendent can take appropriate decisions on an individual case-to-case basis with the prior approval of DIG(Range), the reply stated.
Moreover, as per PHQ Circular issued on 02.09.2022, the telephone facility is contingent upon the good conduct of the prisoner and is limited to once a week and the duration shall not be more than 05 minutes for each of the accused, it added.
On the issue of the said facility being provided to the accused persons from the very beginning of their judicial custody, the concerned Law Officer, Prison (HQ) stated that there was some digression of the said rules by the different Jail Superintendents, who had not followed the rules. It was stated that the said Rule 631 has not been set-aside and as per the said Rule, the said phone calling facility shall be in terms of Rule 631 and the PHQ Circular issued on 02.09.2022.
The court said that from the reading of the said Rule, it appears that the accused persons, who are at present involved in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, are not eligible for this facility in terms of the said existing Rule 631, Delhi Prison Rules, 2018.
The court pointed out, "However, it remains a fact that all the accused persons have been granted this facility on a daily basis for 5 minutes from the beginning of the judicial custody. There have been some instances of different approaches by different Jail Superintendents. It was fairly conceded by the concerned Law Officer, Prison (HQ) that the approach of the jail authority has not been fair and correct and disregards the Prison Rules."
The concerned Tihar Jail Administration must set its house in order and follow the rules and, at the same time, maintain consistency without any discrimination against any individual accused, the court said.
The court also said that the relaxation to the said Rule 631 is provided at two levels. Firstly, at the level of Jail Superintendent, who can take proper decisions on a case-to-case basis on prior approval of DIG (Range) and Secondly, in terms of circular under Rule 631 whereby the competent court can order for providing the Inmate Phone Call facility to accused persons.
The court is conscious of the fact that if such facility, as is prayed by the counsel for applicants, is provided on a daily basis to the accused persons while also considering the fact that considering the said rule, this should apply not only to accused in this case but for all the accused persons in similar offences, the rule itself will get defeated. However, the court is equally conscious of the fact that this facility was being provided continuously without break to the accused persons from the beginning, even if wrongly provided by the Tihar Jail Administration, the court said.
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