Convicts can consult advocates via video-conferencing

Convicts can consult advocates via video-conferencing

In a step forward towards providing meaningful legal aid to the poor in jail, the High Court of Karnataka has directed the jail superintendents, through its legal services committee, to facilitate video-conferencing consultation between convicts and advocates appointed by the committee.

In August 2018, the Supreme Court had ordered that advocates engaged by the legal services committee should be allowed to consult their clients through video-conferencing. Now, the facility has been extended to the convicts, if they wish to consult advocates through video-conferencing.

Advocate Venkatesh Dalvai had moved the special bench, constituted to take up jail appeals, seeking compliance with the Supreme Court order on video-conferencing consultation.

"The legal services committee of the high court appoints advocates to represent the convicts who have no means to engage an advocate. After the Supreme Court order, advocates engaged through this service are allowed to consult their clients. I had moved the court seeking compliance of the order and to consult a client. The High Court division bench has extended the facility to convicts also. The order has been pronounced on Saturday,’’ Dalvai told DH.

The High Court division bench has also directed the committee and jail superintendent to inform the convicts in advance the next possible date of hearing. And, also to inform them about the facility to consult the advocate appointed by the committee to represent them before the court.

"My application was filed in one such case of a convict who had no means to engage an advocate privately. In legal aid, we (advocates engaged by the committee) would not know the background of the client and sometimes we won’t even be aware as to which prison she or he is housed in. Article 39 A of the constitution guarantees meaningful legal aid for the poor. The recent facility provided by the High Court ensures this,’’ Dalvai said.

The process of providing legal aid to convicts who have no means to engage advocates, includes obtaining certified copies of documents.