In December 2020, the Supreme Court had issued strict directions for the installation of CCTV cameras in all police stations in a proper time bound manner. The same was reiterated by the court saying that all the states must comply with the directions.
The bench comprising Justices Hrishikesh Roy, RF Nariman, and BR Gavai observed, “We reiterate that these are the matters of utmost importance concerning the citizens of this country under Article 21of the Constitution of India.”
Amicus Curae, Senior Advocate Siddharth Dave had submitted a chart that contained the timeline by which the states sought in order to follow the orders of the court. The same was examined by the bench.
The Bench was disappointed with the fact that no state had given a sure shot action plan pertaining to the judgement on installation of CCTVs, passed on December 2, 2019. It expressed, “Our orders should have been followed in letter and spirit.”
The states have been given a month by the bench in order to allocate funds for the matter followed by a time period of four months to finally install the cameras. Precisely, the states have five months to do as directed. States where the polls are pending, namely, Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have been give more time.
Owing to its vast territorial extent along with a huge number of police stations, the state of UP has been given the time frame of nine months (one month for budget allocation and remaining eight months for implementation) to follow the directions of the court. On the same lines, Madhya Pradesh has been given seven months.
The court was exasperated when the state of Bihar filled an affidavit that contained no time line for implementation of the said directions. It has provided the state with nine months to do the same with respect to the state’s size and complexity.
The Bench mirrored the same disappointment with the state of Jammu & Kashmir on filing an affidavit, “"So far as the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is concerned, we may indicate that, unfortunately, nothing has been indicated to show compliance either in letter or in spirit.”
The state of Maharashtra assured the court that it would try and implement the orders on installation of the CCTVs by March 2021. However, the Bench was not quite pleased with this statement and asked the Standing Counsel to file an affidavit within 6 weeks which states as to what has exactly been done in the police stations.
Court Reprimands the Centre
The Centre has been reprimanded by the Court for taking a lot more time for the installation of CCTVs in the offices of Central Probe Agencies, such as NCB, CBI, NIA, etc.
In the same judgement passed on December 2, 2019, the Centre has been directed by the Court to install cameras in the offices of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), National Investigation Agency (NIA), Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO).
The centre requested adjournment when the said matter was taken up. Justice Nariman resented the same and questioned the Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta saying, “"We are getting a distinct impression that you are dragging your feet. What kind of letter you have circulated?" The Solictor General responded by saying that they requested adjournment with regard to “ramifications” of the order.
J. Nariman said, "What ramifications? We are not concerned about the ramifications", Justice Nariman shot back. "This concerns the rights of the citizens. This concern he rights of citizenry under Article 21 of the Constitution. We are not accepting the excuses given in the letter", the judge added. This was followed by the SG requesting the court to ignore the letter requesting adjournment of the matter.
He further submitted that the budget allocation for the installation of the cameras had to be done by the State Governments. Then, Justice Nariman highlighted paragraph 19 of the order of December 2, 2019, which stated the constitution of a Central Oversight Body along with CCTVs installation in the central agencies. He said that the concern was the second part of the paragraph.
Justice Nariman further said to the SG, “You tell us the funds that are allotted.” The SG made a plea to be given 10 days to file the affidavit.
The following order was passed by the Bench:
"We heard Solicitor General Shri Tushar Mehhta. The directions in Paragraph 19 of our order dated 2nd December 2020 have not yet been followed. We direct the Union to file an affidavit within 3 seeks stating exactly how much financial outlay is required and the time line within which they are going to carry out the directions contained in the second sentence of parapraph 19 of the aforesaid order.”
Brief Background of the Case
This direction for the installation for CCTV cameras was passed in the case of Paramvir Singh Saini v Baljit Singh.
The bench had held, “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.”
According to the directions issued, the cameras were to be installed at all the points of entry and exit, corridors, lock ups, main gate of the police station, verandas/outhouses, outside the washrooms/toilets, Sub Inspector’s room, Duty Officer’s room and back part of the police station, etc.
It has been said that the CCTVs must have the night vision mandatorily along with consisting of audio and video footage. The court also went on to say that the victims of Custodial Torture will now be endowed with the right to seek this CCTV footage of interrogation by the Police.
Lastly, it said, “A person has a right to complain about human rights violations to the National/State Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Court or the Superintendent of Police or any other authority empowered to take cognizance of an offence. It shall further mentioning 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.”