India police to use Skype to save resources

Bombay High Court backs the use of Skype over conventional videoconferencing links, as part of move to cut costs incurred by police in escorting prisoners to court.

The use of Skype, which allows users can make free video calls, could address the lack of manpower for escorting the accused from prisons to the court.

According to a report Monday in The Times of India, the Bombay High Court previously considered the installation of costly and complex videoconferencing facilities, but a division bench of Justices A. M. Khanwilkar and A. P. Bhangale suggested instead the Maharashtra state government Skype with prisoners who can't be moved securely.

"Almost all lower courts have computer facilities," Justice Khanwilkar said. ''All that you (government) have to do is install [a] data connection and then Skype in them.

In the long run, it would also be cheaper than installing LCD sets for conventional videoconferencing in each and every court, he pointed out, adding Skype was also compatible with 3G mobile handsets.

The matter will be next heard on March 14, when the Maharashtra Government Information Technology secretary will advise on the proposal's practicality.

The pair heard a public interest litigation initiated by Shaikh Abdul Naeem, an accused in the Aurangabad city arms haul case, involving the weapons transported to the terrorists who massacred at least 164 people at a Mumbai's Taj Hotel in 2008. The trial began on February 21.

From Mumbai's Arthur Road Jail, where Shaikh is being held in connection with the arms haul accusations, Shaikh wrote to the High Court and said that he, and 46 other prisoners, could not have their day in court because of a lack of police escort, according to a report in The Asian Age.

Shaikh's letter to the court was converted into a public interest litigation, which prompted the Skype hearings.


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