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Can inmates be given earphones, Bombay High Court asks government

10:20 AM Mar 10, 2019 | Narsi Benwal

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court recently sought to know from the Maharashtra government if earphones can be given to convicts or undertrials, who meet their advocates through video conferencing. This comes after Ankur Panwar, who has been given death sentence in the Preeti Rathi acid attack case, demanded earphones to speak to his counsel through video conferencing.

A division bench of Justices Abhay Oka and Ajay Gadkari was seized with the appeal filed by Panwar challenging the death penalty, sentenced by a special women’s court in September 2016. When his appeal was taken up for hearing in the first week of March, the counsel appearing for Panwar, informed the bench that he was allowed to meet his client through video conferencing.

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Usually, convicts or undertrials, lodged in jails, are produced before the court (either trial court or HC) through video conferencing. Sometimes, such convicts or undertrials are made to speak to their advocates through such conferencing, in the presence of court staff and concerned advocates. During the course of the hearing before the bench of Justice Oka, Panwar’s counsel sought adjournment claiming that he could not take certain instructions from his client.

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“Earphones were not provided to both Panwar (lodged in Yerwada jail) and his counsel. As earphones were not provided, Panwar could not give certain instructions to his advocate, which were confidential in nature,” reads the order uploaded on the HC website. Accordingly, Panwar demanded that he be allowed to meet his advocate in person or he be given earphones so that he can give his confidential instructions to his counsel.

Taking note of the same and refusing to give such a relief, Justice Oka said, “This issue needs to be looked into by the Maharashtra State Legal Services Authority (MSLSA) as well as by the State government. These two authorities must decide whether earphones can be given to the convicts or undertrials and also to their counsels, during video conferencing.” The counsel appearing for Panwar further sought some more time to meet his client personally in the Yerwada jail, as last time, he was only given a mere 15 minutes to meet him.

“Only because the convict is sentenced to death, we direct the jail superintendent of Yerwada prison to allow his advocate to meet Panwar for a period of 30 minutes,” Justice Oka said. Rathi succumbed to the injuries, she had sustained in the brutal acid attack by Panwar at Bandra terminus. The reason for throwing acid at Rathi was that she had turned down his proposal for marriage.

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