The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the states and Union territories UTs) to install CCTV with night vision cameras in each and every police station across the country. The court also directed the recording to be stored for at least 18 months.
The top court also directed the Central government to install CCTV cameras at the offices of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), National Investigation Agency (NIA), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) and any other central agency office where interrogation of people is carried out.
The ruling came on a plea by one Paramvir Singh Saini, who raised the issue of audio and video recording of statements of witnesses and installation of CCTVs in police stations.
The judgment was delivered by a Bench of Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman, KM Joseph, and Aniruddha Bose. The apex court in its judgment also mandated that CCTV systems so installed “must be equipped with night vision and must necessarily consist of audio as well as video footage.”Bar and Bench reported.
The Supreme Court had in the DK Basu Vs State of West Bengal case in 2015 directed that CCTVs be installed in all police stations and prisons to check human rights abuses. But when it sought a status report from states and UTs in the present matter only 14 states and two UTs responded. The majority of them lacked details on the installation and working of CCTV cameras in police stations.
In the judgement, the court said that in areas in which there is either no electricity and/or internet, it shall be the duty of the States/UTs to provide the same as expeditiously as possible using any mode of providing electricity, including solar/wind power, the Court added.
Whenever there is an incident of serious injury or custodial death in a police station, a person can complain about the same to Human Rights Courts which can then summon the CCTV footage for safe-keeping. Such footage shall be made available to the victims in the event of a violation of her human rights, the court said.
The responsibility for the working, maintenance and recording of CCTVs shall be that of the SHO of the police station concerned, the Court made it clear.
Further, in order to ensure that no part of a police station is left uncovered, the Court ordered that CCTV cameras should be installed at all entry and exit points, main gate of the police station, all lock-ups, corridors, lobby/ reception area, all verandas/ outhouses, inspector’s room, sub-inspectors room, areas outside the lock-up room, station hall, in front of the police station compound; outside, washrooms/ toilets, duty officer’s room, back part of the police station, etc.
Posters mentioning the same should be displayed at the entrance of police stations.
Justice Nariman had appointed Senior Advocate Siddhartha Dave as Amicus Curiae and sought a report on the steps to be taken to check such violations. The Court had also requested Attorney General (AG) KK Venugopal to assist the Bench in the matter.
In its judgment, the Court mandated that CCTV camera footage should be stored in digital video recorders and/or network video recorders. Importantly, the recording system should be such that the data stored therein is preserved for 18 months.
“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,” the Court clarified.
Further, the Court also said that whenever there is the 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 about redressal of the same.
“Such complaints may not only be made to the State Human Rights Commission, which is then to utilise its powers, more particularly under Sections 17 and 18 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, for redressal of such complaints, but also to Human Rights Courts, which must then be set up in each District of every State/Union Territory under Section 30 of the aforesaid Act,” the judgment said.