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Nod for virtual court presence

Accused persons in jail custody can now be produced before magistrates without being present in court. Video linkage between prisons and courts will make this possible.

“The link will be initially set up in some prisons and courts of Calcutta and its fringes,” a senior official at Writers’ Buildings said, adding that it would be a hassle-free way to link the magistrate and the accused.

The state government had sent a proposal to the Centre seeking its sanction to amend Section 167 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The government has recently received the clearance.

The Code of Criminal Procedure (West Bengal Amendment) Bill, 2003 will be placed in the Assembly’s winter session. The amendment became essential because under the present section of the CrPC, the accused has to be present in person in court from police or jail custody. The video-linkage facility, however, will not be available during the first production or in cases of production from police custody.

If the bill is passed, the government can instal video linkage. The state information technology department has already drawn up an estimate of Rs 4.5 lakh, which includes the initial cost of investment of Rs 20,000 per site.

Under the video-linkage system, any court can be connected to any jail through the ISDN (integrated service digital network) linkage, which is available in almost all exchanges under Calcutta Telephones. The government will have to pay the basic rental and usage charges to BSNL.

“Some accused persons often cause security hazards for the government,” the official said. Dreaded criminals fleeing police custody while being produced in court is not uncommon. Moreover, a huge expenditure is incurred on transport and on a police contingent every time an accused is produced in court. The cash-strapped government can cut down such costs.

Andhra Pradesh is reportedly the only other state to have introduced the system of video linkage.

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