Police
The move is an attempt to reduce court duties of policemen, and to avoid delays in producing remand prisoners or those on trial before the magistrate.
Image courtesy: Viyyur prison staff/Facebook

Now remand prisoners in Kerala need not be physically produced before the court, with the state's prisons all set begin the process of going hi-tech by the end of October.

In an initiative costing about Rs 25 crore, the state's 383 courts and 53 jails are slated to get state-of-the-art video-conferencing facilities to enable court proceedings to be held without moving these prisoners.

The move is an attempt to make better use of the police personnel on duty, according to a top source within the Kerala prisons department.

"Every day, at least 2,000 policemen are engaged in accompanying remand prisoners to courts. But when there is an urgent law and order problem, VIP duty, a festival or election duty, there is a shortage of police officers for court duty (for accompanying prisoners to court). This leads to delays in producing prisoners before courts, and that amounts to human rights violation," the source added.

The video conferencing facility in jails will relieve police officers of a major portion of their court duties.

BSNL and Keltron to set up the system 

The project - which is a joint initiative by Kerala Prisons department, IT Mission and the judiciary - will be executed in three phases.

A total of 470 studios will be set up across the state, starting from Thiruvananthapuram district. 170 will be set up in the first phase, and 150 each in the second and third phases, according to the source.

Optical fibre cables will be used in the video conferencing system to ensure good connectivity, for which BSNL and Keltron have been roped in.

"BSNL will be the network service provider and do work to the tune of Rs 2 crore while Keltron will provide equipment worth Rs 23 crore to set up the system. Machinery will be set up in the studios as well as court halls, which will enable video conferencing between the magistrate and the inmate," the source added.

So far, 20 such studios have been operational to test the facility on a trial basis.

Following the bye-elections in Kerala, the system will be officially inaugurated in the Kerala High Court by the Chief Justice and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The entire project is expected to be completed and operational by December 2020. 

The second attempt 

This is the second time that Kerala has attempted to set up video conferencing facilities in its prisons.

Back in 2011, when this technology was yet to be set up in other states in India, jail-magistrate video conferencing system was tested in five districts of Kerala. However, the project was shelved within six months due to connectivity and bandwidth issues that led to delays in court proceedings.

With the second attempt in 2019, the state hopes to set up the video conferencing system across all its courts and jails. The project even has support of the judiciary which has contributed Rs 3 crore out of Rs 25 crores.

"The court staff and jail staff will monitor the equipment and connect the system for the court sessions. Order copies, documents or signed papers announcing the next hearing by the magistrate will be sent directly to the jails," the source stated.

The new system will also avoid incidents of violence, smuggling of mobile phones, illicit substances etc. by prisoners when they are taken for court proceeding, the source said.