Social media has truly been a boon for all of us—you can talk to people miles away, get to know what your favourite celebrities are doing, and now, even track your jail convicts out on bail. In an unprecedented move, the Delhi High Court has devised a new way of keeping a track of convicts out on bail, using WhatsApp and Google Maps.
With prisons all over the country facing the problem of overcrowding, the Indian Supreme Court ordered states to consider releasing some prisoners on parole in March in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The prisoners were to be under the constant watch of jail authorities and tracked on a daily basis by special committees to ensure they do not escape. Since prisons come under state authority, each state had framed its own rules regarding the prisoners.
Heeding to the orders, Delhi announced the release of 3,000 prisoners, giving the responsibility of tracking to the local police stations. The court, in orders temporarily suspending the jail terms of three convicts—Ompal, Rahat, and Babu Lal—has asked them to make a video call to the investigating officer or share their live location via WhatsApp so they don’t have to visit the police station every week.
“The appellant will make a video call every Friday between 11 am and 11.30 am to the investigating officer (IO), and in case the IO is no longer in service or is otherwise unavailable, then to the Station House Officer (SHO) of the police station where the case was registered,” stated Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani’s orders in all three cases. “The appellant will also ‘drop-a-pin’ on Google Maps so that the IO/SHO can verify the appellant’s presence and location.” The orders also instruct the convicts to give their cell phone number to the jail superintendent, which they have to keep active and switched on at all times. Justice Bhambhani said in the orders that the step has been taken “in view of the dire need of decongesting prisons, considering the unprecedented public health emergency existing at this time”.
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