MUMBAI: Twelve days after his arrest in a drug case, actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan spoke to his parents for the first time from the Arthur Road jail through a mobile video call. This facility was introduced by jail authorities during the pandemic last year for inmates to communicate with their families and lawyers.
Aryan was sent to the Arthur Road jail after an NDPS court sent him to judicial custody last week. “Aryan gave his mother’s number. He spoke to his mother and father through the video call facility for 10 minutes,” confirmed a senior jail official. As per norms, undertrials can talk to their family/lawyers twice or thrice a month in the presence of jail police constables. At present, Arthur Road has 11 smartphone handsets.
In another development, Aryan and six others, all arrested in the same drug case by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), have been shifted from the jail’s quarantine cell. “All inmates, who were kept in the quarantine cell, have been shifted to general cells,” said a jail officer.
Last week, Aryan and others were kept in a quaran-tine cell as per the rule. An inmate who is brought to the jail is first kept at the quarantine cell for three to five days and is transferred to a regular cell once his Covid test result is negative.
In June last year, the Maharashtra prison department had stopped physical meetings (mulaqat) of prisoners with family members and lawyers due to the pandemic and introduced the video calling facility instead. As a result, 55 smartphones in over three dozen jails were installed at that time.
The facility has helped many prisoners, said a jail officer, adding that an inmate gets to talk to his family face-to-face via video call. “It is time- and cost-effective,” a jail official had earlier said.
Prison departments had during the pandemic created dedicated email IDs for each prison. A lawyer can visit the website and send an e-mail to the concerned prison authorities, if he/she wants to communicate with his/her client. An email may contain an inmate’s name, cell or barrack number, court case number etc.
Once the jail authorities sanction the e-meeting, a time slot is allotted to a lawyer as when s/he can communicate to the client for a maximum of 10 to 15 minutes.
Prior to introducing this facility, a lawyer or family members would have to come to the jail, get themselves registered in the mulaqat register and then they would be able to meet an inmate. The Arthur Road jail may start the physical mulaqat of inmates with their relatives from next week as the collector has given the go-ahead, said a source.
Besides this, the phone-calling facility through coin boxes was also introduced in the jails last year. Prisoners, lodged in various jails, could make phone calls from 60 coin boxes to their relatives. However, there is no coin box phone in Arthur Road jail.

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