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Kerala, India to Launch Video Conferencing System for Prisons

Kerala plans to link 57 prisons in the state with courts through a video conferencing system, which will enable court proceedings to be held without moving inmates.

According to media reports, the system was developed to reduce staff court duties, cut delays in producing remand prisoners, and ensure that court proceedings run smoothly overall.

The project is a collaborative initiative between the Kerala Prisons department, IT Mission, and the judiciary.

Optical fibre cables will be used in the system, provided by BSNL and Keltron.

The project is in its final stage and after the bye-elections in the state, the system will be officially launched in the Kerala High Court by the Chief Justice and Chief Minister. It is expected to be completed and operational by December 2020.

The facility will link jails in 11 districts and has a total outlay cost of IN ₹24.24 crores (approximately US $3.42 million).

Video conferencing systems facilities have also been set up in all jails and courts in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Kottayam, Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta, and Ernakulam.

170 out of 470 studios have been completed under two phases of the project. Another 150 will be established in the third and fourth phase.

The system will address practical difficulties in producing remand prisoners before courts. The transportation of prisoners between jails and courts has been an issue for the police force.

Reports noted earlier that every day, at least 2,000 policemen are engaged in accompanying remand prisoners to courts. However, in situations such as elections or festivals, there is a shortage of police officers for court duty. This results in delays in producing prisoners before courts, which can often lead to human rights violations.

The video conferencing facility in jails will relieve police officers of some of their court duties. It will also avoid incidents of violence, smuggling of mobile phones, and illicit substances by prisoners when they are taken for a court proceeding, news reports said.

They also noted that the court staff and jail staff will monitor the equipment and connect the system for the court sessions. Order copies, documents or signed papers that announce the next hearing by the magistrate will be sent directly to the jails.

Machinery will be set up in the studios as well as court halls, which will enable video conferencing between the magistrate and the inmate.

In 2011, the government planned to implement this project and the system was tested in five districts of Kerala. However, the project was put on hold within six months due to connectivity and bandwidth issues that led to delays in court proceedings.

This year, the state plans to set up the video conferencing system across all its courts and jails. The project even has the support of the judiciary, which has contributed IN ₹3 crores (approximately US $423,579).

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