The Inspector General of Prisons (IGP) on Thursday told the Madras High Court that prison rules do not permit inmates to make either voice calls or video calls to foreign countries. Therefore, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convicts S. Nalini and her husband V. Murugan alias Sriharan cannot be allowed to make video calls to London and Sri Lanka.

Justices M.M. Sundresh and P.T. Asha were informed about the Prison Department’s stand in response to a petition filed by Nalini’s mother S. Padma, 80. The petitioner sought permission for her daughter and son-in-law to make WhatsApp video calls to their relatives in London and Sri Lanka for about 10 minutes every day. On April 27, Murugan’s father Vetrivel died in Sri Lanka. Then, his request to watch the final rites through WhatsApp video call was rejected by prison officials, the petitioner said and claimed that her daughter spoke to her on phone the very next day and requested to make arrangements for the couple to talk to Murugan’s mother Somani Ammal in Sri Lanka. Nalini also wanted to talk to Murugan’s elder sister Raji residing in London so that the couple could console the family members and offer condolence.

On the other hand, State Public Prosecutor A. Natarajan told the court that prisoners were now being allowed to make video calls to their relatives due to restrictions on meeting them in the wake of threat posed by COVID-19. However, such video calls were allowed only within the country and not to foreign nations. “Before allowing a prisoner to make an inland voice/video call, the prison authorities must follow the usual security surveillance and verify the bona fides of the caller on the other end so that the prison security and rules and regulations are not jeopardised.

“If video calls are permitted to foreign countries, the prison authorities cannot verify the genuineness and bona fides of the caller on the other end and cannot take any action against that person even if petitioner’s daughter and son-in-law violate any prison rule or law of the land,” he said and added that permitting voice/video call was a privilege and not a vested right.

Further, in his counter affidavit, IGP Sunil Kumar Singh, an officer in the rank of Director General of Police, told the court that since the crime committed by the two convicts had international ramifications and also given their overseas contacts with banned outfits, there was no guarantee that the convicts would use the video call facility only for personal/family affairs.

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