The Bombay High Court today sought the Maharashtra government's response to a public interest litigation seeking resumption of voice and video call facilities for prison inmates to communicate with their family members and legal counsels.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice V G Bisht said this was an important issue as not everybody can go to prison to visit an inmate.

"This is an important matter. Not everybody can go to prison...Why can't the video and voice call facilities be allowed?" Chief Justice Datta asked. The Court directed Additional Public Prosecutor A R Patil to take instructions from the government and posted the matter for further hearing on May 4.

The petition, filed by NGO 'People's Union for Civil Liberties', claimed the facility of voice and video calls for prison inmates was arbitrarily and abruptly stopped in 2021. As per the plea, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in July 2020, jails had started voice and video call facilities for inmates.

The petition claimed that as per the Model Prison Manual issued on 2016, the superintendent of each jail has to allow prisoners the use of telephones and electronic communications on payment to contact their family members and lawyers.

The petition sought that the government's decision to stop voice and video call facilities be quashed and set aside as it violated the fundamental rights of the inmates.

The decision to stop voice and video call facilities and allow only physical meetings imposes unnecessary hardships on the family members and legal representatives of the inmates, the plea said. The petition also said that the voice and video calls are convenient for the inmates lodged in prisons outside their place of residence.

With PTI inputs