"Are Jails In Condition To Produce Accused Via Video Conferencing?" Bombay HC Asks Govt

The HC has scheduled the next hearing on October 5.

"Are Jails In Condition To Produce Accused Via Video Conferencing?" Bombay HC Asks Govt
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The Bombay High Court (HC) has sought information from the Maharashtra Government about the video conferencing facility being made available at the magistrate courts in the district. The plan is to produce the accused virtually via video calls. The court also sought an update from the government on whether the jails are in condition to provide video conferencing.

After reading the affidavit submitted by the Additional Director General of Police and Inspector General (Prisons & Correctional Services) to support the non-appearance of an accused before trial courts throughout multiple sessions, Justice Bharati Dangre requested information from the government on September 15.

A bail request made by Tribhuvansing Yadav through his attorney, Vinod Kashid, was being heard by the HC. Yadav argued that he was repeatedly absent from court proceedings, including those related to his bail petition.

Aruna Kamath-Pai, the public prosecutor, submitted an affidavit from the prison department stating that the applicant was not brought before the trial court on the scheduled hearing dates because Taloja Prison had not received any orders from the trial court directing it to do so. The prison administration further claimed that they swiftly brought Yadav before the court following the Andheri magistrate's issuance of a warrant for his appearance.

Pai argued that the trial court had to issue a production warrant immediately since the accused could not otherwise be brought before the court without one.

Kashid contested the assertions and asserted that it is not necessary for the magistrate to obtain a warrant in order to present each defendant whose case is listed before the court for a different reason and that an accused person may only be produced following the issuance of such a warrant.

In addition, he argued that Section 309 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) prohibits the Magistrate from remanding an accused to custody for more than 15 days at a time. Once a production has been brought before the court, all that is needed to ensure his appearance before the court on the subsequent date is an endorsement of the hearing date.

The bench stated that the "conundrum needed a solution" and chose lawyer Satyavrat Joshi to serve as an amicus curiae (Friend of the Court) to help the court with the situation.

The court stated that after determining the legal position and the procedural element, a "workable solution" must be established. Additionally, it stated that "the accused are not produced before the Court despite repeated complaints made on their behalf."

Additionally, Justice Dangre has requested that Pai and Kashid produce a position of law based on the CrPC and the Criminal Manual.

The court directed Pai to find out whether the jails and magistrate courts in Mumbai and the surrounding areas have such facilities after she proposed a solution in which the accused might be produced via video conference mode.

The HC has scheduled the next hearing on October 5.

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