Net glitch holds up 2008 serial blasts trial

Faulty Internet connectivity and an outdated video-conferencing system at Tis Hazari Courts have obstructed hearings in the 2008 Delhi serial blasts trial for the past few weeks. The court has asked for an explanation from service provider MTNL and the Tihar Jail technical staff.

Reports say the court's videoconferencing facility is obsolete and spare parts are not available. In Tis Hazari, the city's largest and one of the oldest courts, "an old videoconferencing technology is still being used", sources said.

The Internet plays a significant role in the trial because six of the 13 accused are lodged in Sabarmati Jail, Ahmedabad, and they appear in the hearings via videoconferencing.

However, the hearings had to be postponed thrice since November 21 because of Internet failure. On November 21 and 22, the statements of two witnesses, who had travelled to Delhi from Bangalore, could not be recorded because the video link between the court and the jail failed. The witnesses were supposed to identify the accused through live video.

"They are present for further examination on the point of identity of accused but their statements cannot be recorded for want of videoconferencing connectivity," ASJ Narinder Kumar said.

The court had summoned MTNL officials and Tihar technical staff, responsible for the upkeep of the Internet facilities in the six district courts, to explain the glitch.

On December 1, the Tihar Jail and MTNL officials told the court that the videoconferencing facility in Tis Hazari Courts "is obsolete and needs replacement".

The Tihar Jail technical staff said the system "is not under any annual maintenance contract" and the manufacturer has stopped "the maintenance support".

The court was informed that "advance payments" have been made to National Informatics Centre Services Inc (NICSI) for new "high-definition videoconferencing systems", but the new ones have not been supplied. The new system was supposed to be installed in April this year.

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