Advertisment

Jail Story

author-image
DQI Bureau
New Update
  • A Supreme Court directive in 2005 ordered the shifting of

    Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav, a Lok Sabha RJD MP criminal from the Beur

    Jail in Patna to Tihar Jail in New Delhi. The intention was not only to

    force the tainted member to abide by the jail manual but also to restore

    order in Bihar's prison administration. The Judgment was significant as it

    had ordered the trial of all pending criminal cases against him would

    continue in Patna through video-conferencing. Yadav had allegedly turned

    Beur Jail into a personal retreat, throwing all established norms to thin

    air. Because of the high political connections Yadav had, the matter was

    high-profile.

  • The entire trial of the high profile case of Abdul Karim

    Telgi, the main kingpin amongst the 11 accused in the 'fake stamp paper

    case' was done through video-conferencing. In March 2004, the Supreme

    Court had directed the CBI to investigate 48 fake stamp cases spread over 11

    States. It was decided to use the video-conferencing facility between

    Yerwada Jail, Pune and special court, Mumbai for the trial hearing keeping

    in view Telgi's poor health, security and other logistic reasons. The

    trial of the case was a milestone in the criminal justice system as the

    entire proceeding was conducted through video-conferencing, with Telgi not

    being physically produced before the court at all.

Advertisment

Instances of files piling up to gather dust, incomplete prisoner

information, or cases of prisoners escaping, or getting attacked, on way to the

courts would now be things of the past. With many prisons adopting various

e-enabled services and applications, information technology tools have truly

started to make a difference to the way jails operate in India.

e-tools are assisting the jail authorities create a central

database for managing information flow in prisons across India. Some of the most

widely used initiatives, such as video-conferencing and Prisoner Management

Systems, have facilitated easy governance inside jails, besides reducing

expenditure, time and security risks.

"No one really thought of IT in jails, in spite of its

immense possibilities," said Rajiv Saxena, deputy director general, NIC.

"For instance," continued Saxena, "Tihar is a huge complex spread

over an area of about 400 acres, with over 10 jails. Managing such a huge

complex with more prisoners than its sanctioned capacity, requires an efficient

application that would enable transparency and allow information flow. IT can

solve a lot of problems."

Advertisment

SB Sawarkar, IG, Prisons, Maharashtra, corroborates Saxena's

point. "Basically, technology and the various electronic instruments is the

only answer for better performance of managing any big institution." He

continues, "Prisons are a very important part of the criminal justice

system, entrusted with the responsibility of keeping criminals away from the

society."

Sawarkar says that the prison administration faces a lot of

issues like training, security, separation of criminals from society, judicial

work and safety of prisoners also to an extent. "To attend to all these

issues we have to use various electronic instruments which are supported and

monitored through computerization."

Video-conferencing Ahoy!



Perhaps the most extensively used IT tool, video-conferencing has been

significant in achieving goals of minimizing security risks, and expenditure of

the state governments.

Advertisment

Andhra Pradesh, which has a track record of many IT initiatives,

was the first one to deploy video-conferencing in jails in early 2001. This was

later taken up by states like Maharashtra and Delhi.

"Our biggest concern was the security of the inmates. On an

average, hundreds of under-trials were taken to the district magistrate on a

daily basis for remand," said Riazuddin Ahmed, additional inspector general

(Prisons), Hyderabad.

Chanchalguda central jail-which had more than 1,600

under-trials-and the Nampally city criminal court in Adhra Pradesh, were the

first to be linked at a cost of Rs 150,000. Television sets and digital video

cameras were installed at both ends and connected through ISDN lines.

Advertisment

"Video-conferencing has saved the jail authorities the pain

of going through the drill of waking up the prisoner early in the morningto

getting security checks, on the day of the court hearing," said Saxena.

e-tools are assisting the jail

authorities create a central database for managing information flow in

prisons across India

Besides this, it also checked the wastage of resources. Earlier,

when prisoners were taken to the courts, proper security had to be ensured along

with a mode of transport. As a result, there were large number of security

breaches and delays-as cases would be pending at the district magistrates'

level for days and months.

Advertisment

Relating an experience from Tihar, BD Gupta, director general of

Tihar Prisons, added, "In the case of inmates with a hardcore criminal

background, there was a lingering fear that they could escape."

Moreover, hardcore prisoners would also very often pick up

fights while on the way to court, said Gupta. He added, "Video-conferencing

has minimized the movement of inmates." LAN based, video-conferencing was

introduced in Tihar in January 2005.

Shortage of escort personnel added to the troubles faced by the

jail officials. According to Ahmed, "More than 1,000 men were required in a

year to escort the prisoners to the court premises, and they were paid escort

allowances."

Advertisment

The Bijapur Central Jail in Karnataka too got video-conferencing

facility two years back, based on an ISDN facility. The video-conferencing in

the Karnataka jails was shortly introduced after an incident of attack on

Mallikarjuna Chadchana, an under trial, while he was being brought back to

Bijapur after his deposition before a Belgaum court. The facility has been a

part of the Union Government-sponsored jail modernization scheme and Rs

10,00,000 had been spent on it, he said.

After a High Court order allowing use of video-linkage system in

Tihar in 2002, for extension of prisoners remand, the system was implemented in

the three metro cities of Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai with the provision for

video-conferencing.

According to the official figures of the Delhi Government, the

new system has saved up to Rs 4.5 crore per annum in Delhi alone.

Advertisment

PMS Scores High



Another IT initiative, which is fast catching up with many states is the

Prison Management System and the Visitors Management System. Accurate record of

prisoners and their visitors are now available at the click of a mouse.

"The prime intention is

to integrate all the Central Jails of India with the police departments,

for sharing information about prisoners, and their visitors at the

national level"




-Rajiv Saxena,
deputy director

general, NIC

The PMS developed and implemented by NIC was an application

introduced to enhance the efficiency of the administrative mechanism at Tihar.

The Jail houses over 14,000 inmates presently. The application has allowed the

jail authorities to keep details pertaining to the jail inmates in a central

database. The details include: category of the prisoner, criminal record, year

of entry, biometric details right at the time of their entry, prisoner number,

photograph, personal details (age, address, information related to family

members), medical details, lodging etc.

The biometric details too consist of prisoners' photograph and

fingerprint, which is used for verification of the prisoners in case of

duplicate entry of the prisoners. "The PMS allowed us to adopt a systematic

and uniform approach to handling information about the prisoners in the Tihar

Jail," said Sunil Kumar Gupta, Central Jail, Tihar. The software has played

an important role in supporting a record of movement of inmates inside and

outside the jail, including court cases details about the proceeding of the

hearing, said BD Gupta.

PMS is a G2G and G2C e-Governance tool. "The application

has been crucial in providing information to the prison officials, about the

inmates under their custody," said Saxena. While the prisoner database

consists of details of 16,000 prisoners; 40,000 fingerprints and 60,000

photographs.

According to Saxena, the PMS application is supported by open

database connectivity, which ensures access to any data from any application,

regardless of which database management system (DBMS) is handling the data.

"It has been installed in 16 central jails located at various places in

India after required changes made at database level," he added.

"The prime intention is to integrate all the Central Jails

of India with the police departments for sharing information about prisoners at

national level so that police officials can retrieve information of prisoners

and their visitors," said Saxena.

Managing Visitors



The visitors too are benefiting from the e-governance tools that have

facilitated a systematic approach in the form of a visitor's management system

application. No longer are they required to stand in long queues for extended

hours to get permission to meet inmates. The application was introduced in 2005.

A call center was set up in the Tihar Prison complex, where

visitors get their booking for meetings in advance. On the day of the meeting

they just collect their slips in order to meet the inmate. At the entry point,

their pictures are also taken. The jail authorities are keeping a record of

that. "It has benefited the visitors tremendously as earlier they had to

wait for hours to get clearance," said a senior jail official. Is it not a

silent revolution?

Urvashi Kaul



urvashik@cybermedia.co.in

Advertisment