Government Use of VoIP Services Like Skype a Security Threat: ADG Police

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Government Use of VoIP Services Like Skype a Security Threat: ADG Police
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services like Skype cannot be allowed to be used by government agencies as they pose great security threats, the Additional Director General of Police has informed the Madras High Court.

This issue was discussed when a criminal original petition filed by K Anandan, Superintendent of Prisons in the Central Prison in Coimbatore, seeking to quash proceedings before District Munsif-cum-Judicial Magistrate in Valparai, came up before Justice S Nagamuthu on December 17 last.

The charge against the SP was he had failed to produce an undertrial Chandran before the magistrate on September 16, 2014 on expiry of his remand period. Action was initiated against him under sec.166 IPC. Hence the present petition.

The petitoner said police could not produce him due to local body polls to Municipal Corporation on September 18. Instead, the Judicial Magistrate-II,Coimbatore was authorised to extend the remand of Chandran and others through video-conferencing.

It was contended on behalf of the Valparai Magistrate, where video-conference facility is not available, that JM-II had no jurisdiction to do so, that too without case records.

The judge observed that remand through video conference can be made on extreme circumstances in which jail officials may not be in a position to physically produce the accused in courts due to natural calamities or prevalence of serious law and order problem involving high safety risk of the accused.

However this procedure should not become routine practice of jail authorities, the judge said.

As far as extension of remand under Sec. 167 CrPC was concerned,the court may for its own reasons,remand the accused through electronic video linkage even in absence of compelling reasons for non-production of the accused in person, he said.

On availability of the video-conferencing facility in the courts, the judge directed the government to submit a report in this regard.

In his report, the ADGP submitted that 352 of the total of 411 criminal courts in the State are covered under VC.

Similarly, 24 of 137 prisons in the state, including all central prisons, special prisons for women, district jails and special sub-jails have VC. Of the remaining 113 prisons, three are open air jails housing only convicted prisoners and so do not require this facility.

VC facilities at a cost of Rs. 18 crores would be provided in the other prisons in a phased manner, he said

The judge directed government to complete work in a year.

Till then, jail authorities may take remand prisoners to the nearest jail where VC was available. The magistrate concerned may also go to the nearest courts where this facility is available and extend the remand, the judge added.

The issue of using Skype came up. The ADGP submitted that allowing this facility, operated by private service providers, will cause security concerns as the calls are routed through internationally. Telecommunication application software like Skype many not be appropriate for use by the government.

The judge said when government feels it involves security risk, this court finds no reason to force it to provide this facility

He also held that the CJM in Coimbatore had no power to direct JM-II to extend remand,but condoned their act as they had followed the age old practice without application of mind.

Holding that the action of Anandan falls under the general exception under Sec. 79 of the IPC, he quashed proceedings initiated by the Valparai Magistrate.


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