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Supreme Court directs installation of CCTVs in all police stations and Central probe agencies [Read Judgment]

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New Delhi: The premier investigating agencies comes under the scanner of CCTV. The Supreme Court today directed Centre to install CCTV cameras and recording equipment in the offices of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), National Investigating Agency (NIA), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Serious Fraud Investigating Office (SFIO) & any other agency which carries out interrogation and has power of arrest. 

“Most important of all is the storage of CCTV camera footage which can be done in digital video recorders and/or network video recorders. CCTV cameras must then be installed with such recording systems so that the data that is stored thereon shall be preserved for a period of 18 months,” the Supreme Court said.

“As most of these agencies carry out interrogation in their office(s), CCTVs shall be compulsorily installed in all offices where such interrogation and holding of accused takes place in the same manner as it would in a Police station,” said the Top Court. 

The Apex Court has directed that CCTV footage is preserved for a certain minimum time period, which shall not be less than six months, and the victim has a right to have the same secured in the event of violation of his human rights. 

A three-judge bench headed by Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman, K.M. Joseph & Aniruddha Bose has pronounced its verdict on a plea by Paramvir Singh Saini, who has raised the issue of audio-video recording of statements and of the installation of CCTV cameras in police stations.

The Supreme Court has passed directions for constitution of “Oversight Committees” at the State (State Level Oversight Committee) and District (District Level Oversight Committee) level for ongoing installation and maintenance of CCTVs in Police Stations across all UTs and States while it directed Finance Departments of all UTs and States to allocate fund for it. 

The State Level Oversight Committee must consist of:
(i) The Secretary/Additional Secretary, Home Department;
(ii) Secretary/Additional Secretary, Finance Department;
(iii) The Director General/Inspector General of Police; and
(iv) The Chairperson/member of the State Women’s Commission.

So far as the District Level Oversight Committee is concerned, this should comprise of:
(i) The Divisional Commissioner/ Commissioner of Divisions/
Regional Commissioner/ Revenue Commissioner Division of the
District (by whatever name called);
(ii) The District Magistrate of the District;
(iii) A Superintendent of Police of that District; and
(iv) A mayor of a municipality within the District/ a Head of the Zilla
Panchayat in rural areas.

The Apex Court said, “the duty and responsibility for the working, maintenance and recording of CCTVs shall be that of the SHO of the police station concerned. It shall be the duty and obligation of the SHO to immediately report to the DLOC any fault with the equipment or malfunctioning of CCTVs. If the CCTVs are not functioning in a particular police station, the concerned SHO shall informed the DLOC of the arrest/ interrogations carried out in that police station during the said period and forward the said report to the DLOC. If the concerned SHO has reported malfunctioning or non-functioning of CCTVs of a particular Police Station, the DLOC shall immediately request the SLOC for repair and purchase of the Equipment, which shall be done immediately.” 

The Court has noted in its order, “Since these directions are in furtherance of the fundamental rights of each citizen of India guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, and since nothing substantial has been done in this regard for a period of over 2½ years since our first Order dated 03.04.2018, the Executive/Administrative/police authorities are to implement this Order both in letter and in spirit as soon as possible.”

The Court had on 03/04/2018 in matter of Shafhi Mohammad v. State of Himachal Pradesh (2018) 5 SCC 311, directed that a Central Oversight Body be set up by the Ministry of Home Affairs to implement the plan of action with respect to the use of videography in the crime scene during the investigation. While considering the directions issued in D.K. Basu Vs. State of West Bengal & Others (2015) 8 SCC 744, it had held that there was a need for further directions that in every State an oversight mechanism be created whereby an independent committee can study the CCTV camera footages and periodically publish a report of its observations thereon. The COB was further directed to issue appropriate instructions in this regard at the earliest.

The Ministry of Home Affairs had constituted the Central Oversight Committee to oversee the implementation of the use of photography and videography in the crime scene by the State / Union Territory Government and other Central Agencies, to suggest the possibility of setting up a Central Server for implementation of videography, and to issue appropriate directions so as to ensure that use of videography becomes a reality in a phased manner.

The Court on 16/07/2020 had issued further notice to the MHA on the question of audio-video recordings of Section 161 CrPC statements as is provided by Section 161 (3) proviso, as well as the larger question as to installation of CCTV cameras in police stations generally. After which, action taken report was filed by 14 States till 24/11/2020, namely, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Nagaland, Karnataka, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Sikkim, Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur; and 2 Union Territories, namely, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Puducherry.

The Court noted that the majority of the Compliance Affidavits and Action Taken Reports fail to disclose the exact position of CCTV cameras qua each Police Station. Further, it noted that the position qua constitution of Oversight Committees in accordance with the Order dated 03.04.2018, and/or details with respect to the Oversight Committees already constituted in the respective States and Union Territory have also not been disclosed.

Accordingly, the Supreme Court has passed the direction for filing of the Compliance affidavits by all the States and Union Territories by either the Principal Secretary of the State or the Secretary, Home Department of the States/Union Territories. “These affidavits are to be filed within a period of six weeks from today,” it said.

The Supreme Court has passed the slew of directions;

The Director General/Inspector General of Police of each State and Union Territory should issue directions to the person in charge of a Police Station to entrust the SHO of the concerned Police Station with the responsibility of assessing the working condition of the CCTV cameras installed in the police station and also to take corrective action to restore the functioning of all non-functional CCTV cameras. The SHO should also be made responsible for CCTV data maintenance, backup of data, fault rectification etc.

The State and Union Territory Governments should ensure that CCTV cameras are installed in each and every Police Station functioning in the respective State and/or Union Territory. Further, in order to ensure that no part of a Police Station is left uncovered, it is imperative to ensure that CCTV cameras are installed at all entry and exit points; main gate of the police station; all lock-ups; all corridors; lobby/the reception area; all verandas/outhouses, Inspector’s room; SubInspector’s room; areas outside the lock-up room; station hall; in front of the police station compound; outside (not inside) washrooms/toilets; Duty Officer’s room; back part of the police station etc.

CCTV systems that have to be installed must be equipped with night vision and must necessarily consist of audio as well as video footage. In areas in which there is either no electricity and/or internet, it shall be the duty of the States/Union Territories to provide the same as expeditiously as possible using any mode of providing electricity, including solar/wind power. If the recording equipment, available in the market today, does not have the capacity to keep the recording for 18 months but for a lesser period of time, it shall be mandatory for all States, Union Territories and the Central Government to purchase one which allows storage for the maximum period possible, and, in any case, not below 1 year. It is also made clear that this will be reviewed by all the States so as to purchase equipment which is able to store the data for 18 months as soon as it is commercially available in the market. The affidavit of compliance to be filed by all States and Union Territories and Central Government shall clearly indicate that the best equipment available as of date has been purchased.

Whenever there is information of force being used at police stations resulting in serious injury and/or custodial deaths, it is necessary that persons be free to complain for a redressal of the same.

Read the Judgment here;

13346_2020_33_1501_24909_Judgement_02-Dec-2020

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