Hearing a petition filed by Pinjra Tod activists Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, a single judge bench of Justice Prathiba Singh has asked Director General Prisons, Delhi, to consider giving prisoners the choice between being produced before the courts physically or through video conferencing.
They alleged that the requirement for them to be quarantined for 14 days after each physical production before the courts prejudiced their rights, and therefore a prior order dated Feb 1 permitting them to be produced via video conferencing may be allowed to continue.
The 14-day quarantine is imposed by jail authorities to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. In this regard, it has also been earlier submitted by another JNU student in a hearing that while after every physical hearing they were quarantined for 14 days, they were equally at a chance of contracting the virus from the jail officials who would go out but were not quarantined upon return.
Justice Prathiba Singh, hearing the matter said the direction would be subject to any other specific direction passed by the trial courts or any administrative direction issued by the High Court regarding the issue.
At this Adv Anuj Aggarwal, representing the DG (Prisons), informed the court that the quarantine period was already reduced to five days as on Feb 19. He also sought time to file a written reply and place the order on record.
However, Adv Adit Pujari, representing Kalita and Narwal, argued that as they were to be produced in various courts in different cases, the reduction in the quarantine period was not going to be any relief for them. Narwal and Kalita are accused in four FIRs connected to the Northeast Delhi riots.
Justice Singh noted that many people may not like being put in quarantine even for 5 days, hence, "You can give choice to the prisoners. Some prisoners may want to meet the family, their lawyers and therefore prefer physical production." Observing thus, the court ordered as prayed for, "The petitioners shall continue to be produced before the respective courts through video conferencing as directed on February 1, 2020."
The case is listed for next hearing in April.