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Delhi High Court dismisses plea by Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita regarding lack of facilities for inmates in Tihar Jail

The High Court of Delhi on Thursday disposed of a petition filed by Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, arrested in the case related to North-East riots of 2020, seeking various facilities like video calling or e-mulaqats, dietary needs, daily telephonic interaction and internet access for all inmates lodged in Tihar jail.

The High Court observed that the plea primarily dealt with facilities to be provided during the pandemic and since the restrictions imposed during Covid-19 were not applicable anymore, the petition had become infructuous. 

The Single-Judge Bench of Justice Pratibha M. Singh noted that no further orders were required to be passed in the matter, as the plea had run its course.
Narwal and Kalita had filed the plea in 2020, highlighting multiple issues faced by undertrials inside the prison.

The two were granted bail by the High Court in June, 2021. A petition challenging their bail was pending before the Supreme Court.

The Counsel representing the petitioners contended that the facilities might not be resumed to them if the Supreme Court cancelled their bail. 

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The High Court granted them liberty to approach it again, in case such a situation arose.

The Bench noted that the circular issued by Tihar jail on December 26 last year had clearly stated that the calling facility would be made available for foreign inmates unless they were covered under the exception.

The circular further said that the Delhi Prison Rules exempted prisoners involved in offences against the State, terrorist activities, MCOCA, National Security Act, Public Safety Act and otherwise involved in multiple heinous offences, from being eligible for the facility in the interest of public safety and order.

In May, 2021, the High Court had passed a slew of directions on facilities to be provided to jail inmates, including tele-calling facility, vaccination, e-mulaqats, monthly charges for calling facilities, physical mulaqats, IT infrastructure and computer centre in jail and legal aid.

During the course of hearings, the court considered the issue of e-mulaqat facility to foreign prisoners.

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A status report filed by the Superintendent of Tihar Jail stated that the facility of e-mulaqat was not being extended to foreign prisoners due to security reasons.

However, it said that telephonic voice calls were allowed once a week to inmates whose family members were residing abroad, on request, added the report.

(Case title: Natasha Narwal & Anr vs State of NCT Delhi & Anr)

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