New Delhi, June 6: Former telecom minister A. Raja queued up to make a call, as did a bevy of phone czars, but the likes of Khobad Ghandy remained “on hold”.
That is set to change now. Tihar jail authorities have decided to allow convicts and undertrials involved in serious crimes such as murder, rape and sedition to avail of a phone facility earlier restricted to those involved in less serious offences. Such calls can now be made all seven days a week instead of twice earlier.
The move to include those being tried for, or accused of, grave crimes is based on humanitarian grounds, to help them keep in touch with their families.
“We have decided to allow undertrials and convicted prisoners involved in serious crimes to use the facility,” Sunil Gupta, the jail’s law officer, told The Telegraph.
The distinction so far meant that while Raja, Kanimozhi and others accused in the 2G case enjoyed the facility, Maoist leader Ghandy couldn’t because he faces sedition charges.
Only well-behaved inmates and first-time offenders in less serious crimes could use the facility, introduced in 2010 on Delhi High Court’s orders. “Multiple and habitual offenders were not allowed earlier,” Gupta said.
Tihar, Asia’s largest prison, has around 12,000 prisoners spread across 10 jails, each of which has a telephone booth.
Asked whether Ghandy will be allowed to use such phones, another jail official said the rebel leader could be permitted but with conditions. “He has to explain why he wants to avail of the facility. If we find that the reasons are genuine enough, he can be allowed too,” said the official.
Neeraj Kumar, director-general (prisons), said remaining in touch with their family had a positive impact on the inmates. “The phone facility has become very popular.”
The calls are not free. Each inmate has to pay Rs 100 per month for local and Rs 200 for STD calls. The duration of each can’t be more than five minutes.
The phones have recording devices and jail officials are deployed at the booths to ensure that prisoners talk in languages easily understood.