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Jammers in jails to quell cellphones

The government is working on a proposal to instal jammers in three high-security jails across the city to block the mobile waves. The move follows a confidential report that some criminal inmates, like Aftab Ansari and Gabbar, have access to mobile phones despite a round-the-clock vigil on them.

Officials said on Tuesday the detection of a mobile phone in the Presidency jail cell of Ansari, who masterminded the attack on the American Center early this year, had prompted the prison authorities to overhaul the security arrangements at Alipore, Presidency and Dum Dum Central jails. Two warders have been suspended and handed over to the police for supplying the mobile phone to Ansari through criminal Gabbar.

“The government is seriously considering our proposal for installation of imported jammers in the three jails housing high-risk prisoners so that supply of mobile phones to inmates through middlemen can be checked,” said principal secretary (jails) P.C. Agrawal.

If jammers are installed, inmates will be discouraged from accepting mobile phones in their cells, he explained. “Though jail officials are regularly searching the cells of high-risk prisoners, it is not possible for them to spot a tiny mobile phone that is kept hidden,” Agarwal added.

A senior jail official confirmed that experts from Webel Electronics and Communication System (WECS) had inspected both Alipore and Presidency jails to examine the spots where jammers could be installed. “This is a sophisticated, imported device, to be installed for the first time in Bengal jails,” he said.

When contacted, WECS assistant manager Ramanuj Mukherjee, however, refused to elaborate on the proposal. “This is a sensitive matter and it is unfair to divulge anything about the imported device, as it involves high-risk prisoners,” he added.

In a related development, the prison authorities have once again called upon the government to expedite the video trial of prisoners without producing them in court. Presidency jail has already set up a makeshift courtroom in a jailer’s quarters, where Ansari’s trial has begun.

“But this arrangement is not possible for every high-risk prisoner. So, the introduction of video trial is necessary to avert their physical production in courts,” observed Anup Tripathi, additional inspector-general of prisons, in charge of security.

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