THE HON'BLE SRI JUSTICE K.C.BHANU
CRIMINAL PETITION NO. 1031 OF 2012
O R D E R:
This Criminal Petition is filed under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Cr.P.C.) challenging the order dated 23.01.2012 passed by the Special Judge for CBI Cases, Hyderabad in Crl.M.P. No.76 of 2012 in F.I.R. R.C. No. 19 (A) of 2011-HYD, registered by the respondent-Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI).
2. The petitioner, who is A.2 in a case in F.I.R. R.C. No.19 (A) of 2011-HYD registered by respondent-CBI, filed the petition before the learned Special Judge seeking permission to use Laptop/Computer stating inter alia as follows.
The petitioner is a qualified Chartered Accountant and is a partner of M/s. V.S. Reddy SP & Associates Chartered Accounting Firm. It is serving many clients in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamilnadu. He is a financial advisor to reputed companies. Though the petitioner is in judicial custody, his services as Financial Advisor are very much required, and in the absence of the same, the companies would suffer great prejudice besides financial loss. The petitioner is also assisting various advocates in defending/filing various cases filed by/against the said companies before various authorities including the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, High Courts of Delhi and Andhra Pradesh, Income Tax Appellate Tribunals and before the Enforcement Director, New Delhi. Therefore, the petitioner requires laptop/computer to give necessary instructions and also for preparation of affidavits/petitions/counters to be filed before various authorities. The petitioner may also be permitted to use Pen Drive/Universal Serial Bus (USB)/Compact Disc (CD) for transferring the data to the advocate/s and that he would not use internet services to the laptop/computer. Hence, the petition.
3. The respondent-CBI filed its counter before the learned Special Judge stating as follows.
The petitioner played a crucial role in mobilisng investments to the companies promoted by A.1. With the advancements in technology having access to such electronic gadgets i.e. laptop/ computer will not only enable the accused to easily access internet facility with outside world and with other witnesses in the case, but also with such access, the accused would be able to communicate to anybody and everybody in the world and thereby it will adversely affect the prosecution case, and so, the very purpose of keeping the petitioner in judicial custody would be defeated. The investigation is in crucial stage, and if the permission as prayed for, is granted to the petitioner, it will adversely hamper the investigation. The petitioner has not produced any record to show whether as per Jail Manual it is permissible or not to use the laptop. Hence, he prayed to dismiss the petition.
4. The learned Special Judge, upon considering the material on record, held that misuse of laptop/computer by the petitioner cannot be imagined or stopped or prevented, as such, the said facility sought for cannot be extended to the petitioner at the stage when investigation is in progress, and accordingly, dismissed the same. Challenging the same, the present Criminal Petition is preferred.
5. Sri S.Niranjan Reddy, learned counsel for the petitioner contended that the petitioner is a qualified Chartered Accountant and he has many clients in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Karnataka; that the petitioner has to assist various advocates in defending the present case and also in cases filed by/against the group of companies before various authorities; that, internet disabled laptop/computer may be permitted to be used by the petitioner so that he will prepare material so as to defend his case; that the laptop/computer may be certified by a technical engineer so that the same cannot be used for any other purpose other than the one specified in the petition; that by virtue of the impugned order, the petitioner will be deprived of his valuable right conferred on him; hence, he prays to set aside the impugned order and allow the petition filed by the petitioner.
6. Learned Special Public Prosecutor for CBI Cases Sri P.Kesava Rao appearing for the respondent-CBI contended that Jail Manual does not permit under-trial prisoners to use laptop/computer; that with the laptop/computer, there is possibility of petitioner influencing the witnesses by accessing internet within India and outside the world by using data cards; that even if the laptop/computer is disabled with internet facility, with the advanced technology of Wify, internet can be accessed by the petitioner; that internet can be accessed using strong modem outside jail and through Wify; that the permission sought for is nothing but to influence the witnesses by using internet in dubious manner; that, the learned Special Judge rightly dismissed the petition and there are no grounds to interfere with the same.
7. The respondent-CBI registered a case in F.I.R. R.C. No.19 (A) of 2011-HYD for the offences under Sections 120B read with 420, 409, 420 and 477A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) and 13 (2) read with 13 (1) (c) & (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The petitioner is arrayed as A.2 in the said case and he is in judicial custody. He is a Chartered Accountant. On two grounds the petitioner wanted permission from the Court to use laptop/computer viz. to render his services to his clients as well as to assist various advocates in defending the present case and also various other cases filed before various authorities, including this Court, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, High Court of Delhi, Income Tax Appellate Tribunals and before the Enforcement Director, New Delhi. Learned counsel for the petitioner has not pressed the petition with regard to the requirement of the laptop/computer so as to give advice to the clients being a qualified Chartered Accountant and a partner of M/s. V.S. Reddy SP & Associates Chartered Accounting Firm. The learned counsel is pressing the petition with regard to permission to use laptop/computer without internet facility for the purpose of defending cases pending before various authorities, including this case, and it is his contention that if the laptop/computer is disabled with internet facility, there is no scope for misusing the same and any material that is typed in the laptop or computer can be checked by the jail authorities so that misuse of the facility that may be provided to the petitioner can be intercepted or prevented.
8. The Andhra Pradesh Prisons Rules, 1979 (for short, ‘the Rules, 1979’) inter alia deal with rights and duties of prisoners. Rule 489 (1) of the Rules reads as follows:
‘Every newly convicted prisoner shall be allowed reasonable facilities for seeing or communicating with his relatives, friends or legal advisers with a view to the preparation of an appeal or to the procuring of bail and shall also be allowed to have interviews or to write letters to his relatives, friends or legal advisers, once or twice, or often or if the Superintendent considers it necessary, to enable him to arrange for the management of his property or other family affairs.”
A perusal of the above Rule makes it clear that it would apply to convicted prisoners.
Chapter XXXIX of the Rules, 1979 deals with the rights of under trial prisoners. In the Note in Rule 746 of the Rules, it is stated that, for the Rules regulating interviews and communications – vide Chapter XXVII would be applicable. Therefore, Rule 489 (1) of the Rules, 1979 not only applies to convicted prisoners but also to the under-trial prisoners.
9. Rule 610 of the Hyderabad Prisons Rules came up for consideration before this Court in a decision in T.Nagi Reddy & Ramakrishnareddi v. State of A.P., Hyderabad, wherein it is held thus: (para 20)
“The last request is for the use of a typewriter. The petitioners stated that they have to prepare for their defence . It is stated that the records are voluminous and copies have to be prepared for the use of their lawyers. I think, in view of this the request for permission to use a typewriter is justified. It is argued by the learned Government Pleader that under Rule 605 they can be supplied only and writing materiel and typewriter cannot be included in the expression writing material or stationery. I think in the context of the present day, when the typewriter is freely used for correspondence, a broad meaning has to be given to the expression stationery so as to include a typewriter. Apart from this Rule 610 says that unconnected criminal prisoners shall be allowed all reasonable facilities, at proper times and under proper restrictions, for interviewing or otherwise communicating either orally or in writing with their relatives friends and legal advisers. In view of the large volume of the record and necessity for getting the documents typed, it can be said that permission to use a typewriter would be a reasonable facility for communicating with their legal advisers and conducting the defence.”
The above decision has no application to the facts of the present case. By providing type-writer, there is no possibility of communicating secret information to outside persons or possibility of influencing the witnesses.
10. Section 31 of the Prisons Act, 1894 reads thus:
“A civil prisoner or an unconvicted criminal prisoner shall be permitted to maintain himself, and to purchase, or to receive from private sources at proper hours food, clothing, bedding or other necessities, but subject to examination and to such rules as may be approved by the Inspector General.”
Section 33 of the Prisons Act, 1894 reads thus:
“Every civil prisoner and unconvicted criminal prisoner unable to provide himself with sufficient clothing and bedding, shall be supplied by the Superintendent with such clothing and bedding as may be necessary.”
Both these provisions would clearly go to show that other necessities, including food, clothing and bedding, can be given to the under-trial prisoner subject to examination.
11. Under Rule 504 of the Rules, 1979, writing materials including service post cards shall be supplied in reasonable quantities to any convict who has permission to write a letter and all letters shall be written at such time and place as the Superintendent may appoint. A fixed day of the week, preferably Sunday, shall be set apart for letter writing service postage stamps shall be provided for prisoners’ letters.
Similarly, under Rule 506 (1) of the Rules, 1979, unconvicted criminal prisoners and civil prisoners shall be granted all reasonable facilities at proper times and under proper restrictions for interviewing or otherwise communicating either orally or in writing with their relatives, friends and legal advisers. Under Sub-Rule (3) of Rule 506, when any person desires an interview with an unconvincted criminal prisoner in the capacity of the prisoner’s legal adviser, he shall apply in writing giving his name and address and stating to what branch of the legal profession he belongs and he must satisfy the Superintendent that he is the bonafide legal adviser of the prisoner with whom he seeks an interview and that he has legitimate business with him. Sub-Rule (4) of Rule 506 provides that any bonafide confidential written communication prepared by an unconvicted criminal prisoner as instructions to his legal adviser may be delivered personally to such legal adviser or to his authorized clerk without being previously examined by the Superintendent.
So, Rules are passed to maintain jail discipline and administration and to the security of the State. The main object of confining under-trial prisoners in jail is that they do not tamper with the evidence.
12. Learned counsel for the petitioner relied on a decision in Charles Sobraj v. Supdt., Central Jail, Tihar, New Delhi, wherein it is held thus: (paras 5 and 6).
“This proposition was not contested by the learned Additional Solicitor General Sri Soli Sorabjee. Nor does its soundness depend, for us, upon the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Art. 21, read with Art. 19 (1) (d) and (5), is capable of wider application than the imperial mischief which gave it birth and must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency and dignity that mark the progress of mature society, as Batra and Sobraj have underscored and the American Judges have highlighted. Fair procedure is the soul of Art. 21, reasonableness of the restriction is the essence of Art. 19 (5) and sweeping discretion degenerating into arbitrary discrimination is anathema for Art. 14. Constitutional karuna is thus injected into incarceratory strategy to produce prison justice. And as an annotation of Art. 21, this Court has adopted, in Kharak Singh's case (1964) 1 SCR 332 at p. 357 : ( AIR 1963 SC 1295 at p. 1305) that expanded connotation of 'life' giving by Field, J. which we quote as reminder :
"Something more than mere animal existence. The inhibition against its deprivation extends to all those limbs and faculties by which life is enjoyed. The provision equally prohibits the mutilation of the body by the amputation of an arm or leg, or the putting out of an eye, or the destruction of any other organ of the body through which the soul communicates with the outer world."
The next axiom of prison justice is the court's continuing duty and authority to ensure that the judicial warrant which deprives a person of his life or liberty is not exceeded, subverted or stultified. It is a sort of solemn covenant running with the power to sentence.”
It is a case where under-trial prisoner was cruelly restricted in the manner which supports no relevant purpose and therefore the restriction was held to be unreasonable and arbitrary. Therefore, the decision has no application to the facts of the present case.
13. The learned counsel for the petitioner also placed reliance on a decision in Rama Murthy v. State of Karnataka, wherein it is held thus: (para 3)
( 3. ) These are not the only decisions on the question of rights of prisoners and approach to be adopted while dealing with them as there are many other renderings of this Court which deal with some other aspects of prison justice. A brief resume of earlier decisions would be helpful to tread the path further. The resume reveals this :-
(1) In State of Maharashtra v. Prabhakar, AIR 1966 SC 424 : (1966) 1 SCR 702, and of Article 21 was made available perhaps for the first time to a prisoner while dealing with the question of his right of reading and writing books while in jail.
(2) Suresh Chandra v. State of
Gujarat, (1976) 2 SCC 654 : (AIR 1976 SC 2462) and Krishan Lal v. State of , (1976) 1 SCC 655 : (AIR 1976 SC 1139) saw this Court stating about penological- innovation in the shape of parole to check recividism because of which liberal use of the same was recommended. Bihar
(3) A challenge was made to the segregation of prisoners in Bhuyan Mohan Pattnaik v. State of
. AIR 1974 SC 2092 : (1975 2 SCR 24 and a three Judge bench stated that resort to oppressive measures to curb political beliefs (the prisoner was a Naxalite because of which he was put in a 'quarantine' and subjected to inhuman treatment) could not be permitted. The Court, however, opined that a prisoner could not complain of installation of High-volt live wire mechanism on the jail walls to prevent escape from prisons, as no prisoner has fundamental right to escape from lawful custody. Andhra Pradesh
(4) In Charles Sobraj (AIR 1978 SC 1514) it was stated that this Court would intervene even in prison administration when constitutional rights or statutory prescriptions are transgressed to the injury of a prisoner. In that case the complaint was against incarceratary torture.
(5) Sunil Batra (1) (AIR 1978 SC 1675), dealt with the question whether prisoners are entitled to all constitutional rights apart from fundamental rights. In that case this Court was called upon to decide as to when solitary confinement could be imposed on a prisoner. In Kishor Singh v. State of
, AIR 1981SC 625 : 1081 (1) SCC 508, also the Court dealt with the parameters of solitary confinement. Rajasthan
(6) Prem Shankar v. Delhi Administration, AIR 1980 SC 1535 : 1980 (3) SCI 855 and Kadra Pahadiya v. State of
, AIR 1981 SC 939 (1981)3 SCC 671, prohibited putting of undertrial prisoners in leg-irons. Bihar
(7) In Sunil Batra (II) (AIR 1980 SC 1579), the Court was called upon to deal with prison vices and the judgment protected the prisoners from these vices with the shield of Article 21, Krishna Iyer, J, stated that "prisons are built with the stones of law".
(8) A challenge was made to a prison rule which permitted only one interview in a month with the members of the family or legal advisor in Francis Goralic v. Union Territory of Delhi, AIR 1981 SC 746 : (1981) 2 SCR 516 and the rule was held violative, inter alia of Article 21.
(9) In series of cases, to wit, Veena Sethi v. State of Bihar, AIR 1983 SC 339 : 1982 (2) SCR 583; (ii) Sant Bir v. State of Bihar, AIR 1982 SC 1470: (1822) 3 SCC 131 and (ii) Sheela Barse v. Union Territory, (1993) 4 SCC 204 : (1993 AIR SCW 2908), this Court was called upon to decide as to when an insane person can be detained in a prison. In Sheela Barse it was held that jailing of non-criminal mentally ill persons is unconstitutional and directions were given to stop confinement of such persons.
It would be of some interest to point that in Sheela Barse an order was passed to acquaint the Chief Secretaries of every State with the decision and he was directed to furnish some information to the Standing Counsel of his State. On being found that State of Assam had not complied with the order, this Court appointed Sr. Advocate Shri Gopal Subramanium as its Commissioner by its order dated 13-5-1994 to have discussion with the Chief Secretary of that State and to ensure immediate obedience of the orders passed in that case, Shri Subramanium's voluminous report dated 15-9-1994 running into 532 pages tells a story too wet for tears. All concerned were found ignorant of the decision in Sheela Barse which was rendered in August 1993: and what is more a disturbing nexus between the judiciary, the police and the administration came to light. This was said to have led to a most shocking state of affairs negating the very basis of the existence of human life.
We do hope that by now all the States of the country must have acted as per the directions in Sheela Barse (1993 AIR SCW 2908).
(10) The judicial work done by this Court on the subject at hand would not be complete without mentioning what was held in Mohammad Glasuddin v. State of
. AIR 1977 SC 1926: (1978) 1 SCR 153, because in that case reformative aspect was emphasised by stating that the State has to rehabilitate rather than avenge. Krishna Iyer, J. speaking for a two-Judge Bench, pointed out that the "sub-culture that leads to anti-social behaviour has to be countered not by undue cruelty but by re-culturalisation." Andhra Pradesh
(11) On top of all there is the undoubted right of speedy trial of undertrial prisoners, as held in a catena of cases of this Court, reference to which is not deemed necessary. Mention may only be made of the further leaves added to this right. These consist of ordering for release on bail where trial is protracted. The first decision in this regard is by a two-Judge bench in Supreme Court Legal Aid Committee representing Undertrial Prisoners v. Union of India, (1994) 6 SCC 731 (1994 AIR SCW 5115) wherein the bench was concerned with the detention of large number of persons in jail in connection with various offences under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act,1985. The Court, after noting the stringent provisions relating to bail as incorporated in that Act, directed for release of those undertrial prisoners who were languishing in jail for a period exceeding half of the punishment provided in the Act. This decision was cited with approval by another two-Judge Bench in Shabeen Welfare Association v. Union of India, (1996) 2 SCC 616 : (1996 AIR SCW 1161), in which harsh provisions of TADA were borne in mind and the bench felt that a pragmatic and just approach was required to be adopted to release TADA detenues on bail because of delay in conclusions of trials. The Bench classified these undertrials in four categories and passed different orders relating to their release on bail.
The above decision refers to various rights of under-trial prisoners. Therefore, the ratio laid down in the above decisions is not directly applicable to the facts of the present case.
14. There cannot be any dispute that the Prisons Act, 1894 applies to all prisoners including unter-trial prisoners, who are remanded to judicial custody under the orders of the Court. The provisions of the Act and the Rules made thereunder are applicable to them. The under-trial prisoners are governed by the said Act and the Rules and are entitled to whatever the facilities that were given to them.
15. In the decision relied on by the learned counsel for the petitioner in Charles Sobraj v. Superintendent, Central Jail, Tihar, New Delhi, it is held that right to life of a prisoner is more than mere animal existence, or vegetable subsistence. Therefore, the worth of the human person and dignity and divinity of every individual inform Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India even in a prison setting, and that there must be correlation between deprivation of freedom and the legitimate functions of a correctional system.
16. In a decision relied on by the learned counsel for the petitioner in Sunil Batra (II) v. Delhi Administration, it is held that under-trial prisoners shall not be denied any of the community amenities including games, newspapers, books, moving around and meeting prisoners and visitors, subject to reasonable regulation of prison management.
17. In another decision relied on by the learned counsel for the petitioner in Francil Mullin v. Union Territory of Delhi & ors.,it is held that a person’s liberty must be curtailed with caution and must be proportional to necessity. It noted that a prison rule may regulate the right of a detenue to have interview with a legal adviser in a manner which is reasonable, fair and just. However, it cannot prescribe an arbitrary or unreasonable procedure for regulating such an interview as that would be violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
18. None of the amenities provided in the Jail Manual or in Prison Rules to the under-trial prisoners is violated in this case. It is also not the grievance of the petitioner that the rights conferred upon under-trial prisoners as per the Prisons Act, 1894 and the Rules made thereunder, have been violated or infringed. The only ground taken by the petitioner in this Criminal Petition for permission to use a laptop/computer is to give necessary instructions to the counsel for preparation of affidavits/petitions/counters to be filed before various authorities in the pending cases. In the absence of any Rule in the Andhra Pradesh Prisons Rules, 1979 for giving permission to an under-trial prisoner to use laptop/computer for giving instructions to his counsel, such a permission cannot be given. As the petitioner is in judicial custody, he can as well give instructions to his counsel whenever they seek interview with him and he can also give written instructions by writing on papers, for preparation of affidavits/petitions/counters. By allowing the petitioner to use pen drive/compact disc/ Universal Serial Bus (USB), there is every possibility of using them for the purpose other than it was permitted to be used. Since the case is under investigation, apprehension of the prosecution is that by using laptop/computer, the petitioner may influence the witnesses by accessing internet.
19. No doubt, internet disabled laptop/computer, if given, it may not be possible for the petitioner to influence the witnesses, but, at the same time, technology has so developed that there is every possibility for using the internet facility by Wify by using strong modem outside the jail premises, even if laptop/computer is disabled. It is the further apprehension of the respondent-CBI that due to latest technology, the accused may have access to the internet within India and outside the world by using data cards and further use of such data cards will not have any security check and they can be passed on to the accused by visitors meeting him. This apprehension of the respondent-CBI appears to be correct in view of the vast development in science and technology. So long as the use of laptop/computer is not misused, it may be useful for any prisoner, including under-trial prisoner, but, at the same time, there is every likelihood of misusing of the facility if the same is provided to the petitioner. In these circumstances, the possibility of misusing the laptop/computer by the petitioner, as apprehended by the respondent-CBI, cannot be ruled out. No provision or rule under the Prisons Act or A.P. Prison Rules is brought to the notice of this Court about use of electronic and computer devices much less a laptop can be permitted to be used by under trial prisoner.
20. Rights of the prisoners have to be balanced with that of the investigating agency so that there can be a fair trial after investigation is completed. The petitioner will be having other modes of communicating his defence or revealing facts which are necessary for preparation of affidavits/petitions/counters to be filed before various authorities. Even if the laptop/computer is not provided, the petitioner would not be deprived of his right to defend his case. No doubt, rights of accused to defend himself in a criminal prosecution is a valuable right conferred on him. But, that stage has not come in this case. During trial of the case, the accused will be having a full-fledged opportunity to defend him even if the case involves voluminous record. The stage of investigation, generally, includes proceeding to the spot, ascertaining the facts and circumstances, discovery and arrest of suspected offender, collection of evidence which may consists of examination of accused, recording statements, if thought fit, search of a place and seizure of incriminating material and consideration whether the materials are enough for submitting charge sheet. So, at this stage, it is not desirable to give permission to the petitioner to use laptop/computer as the use of the same may be in the interest of the petitioner, but not serving the actual purpose of his defence. It is not a fit case to grant the relief sought for by the petitioner in the trial court and there are no grounds to interfere with the order under challenge.
21. The Criminal Petition is devoid of merit and is, accordingly, dismissed.