Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of RF Nariman*, KM Joseph and Anirudhha Bose, JJ has directed all the States and UTs to install CCTV cameras in all Police Stations and file compliance affidavits within 6 weeks.
The Court said that the directions are in furtherance of the fundamental rights of each citizen of India guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, and hence, the Executive/Administrative/police authorities are to implement this Order both in letter and in spirit as soon as possible.
In Shafhi Mohammad v. State of Himachal Pradesh, (2018) 2 SCC 801the Court had 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.
Earlier, 14 States and 2 UTs had filed compliance affidavits but the Court noticed that the majority of the Compliance Affidavits and Action Taken Reports failed to disclose the exact position of CCTV cameras qua each Police Station. It hence, directed that the Compliance Affidavit is to be done by ALL the States and Union Territories, including those who have filed ‘so-called’ compliance affidavits.
The directions issued by the Court include:
- Duties of the State Level Oversight Committee (SLOC):
a) Purchase, distribution and installation of CCTVs and its equipment;
b) Obtaining the budgetary allocation for the same;
c) Continuous monitoring of maintenance and upkeep of CCTVs and its equipment;
d) Carrying out inspections and addressing the grievances received 6 from the DLOC; and
e) To call for monthly reports from the DLOC and immediately address any concerns like faulty equipment.
- Duties of the District Level Oversight Committee (DLOC):
a) Supervision, maintenance and upkeep of CCTVs and its equipment;
b) Continuous monitoring of maintenance and upkeep of CCTVs and its equipment;
c) To interact with the Station House Officer (SHO) as to the functioning and maintenance of CCTVs and its equipment; and
d) To send monthly reports to the SLOC about the functioning of CCTVs and allied equipment.
e) To review footage stored from CCTVs in the various Police Stations to check for any human rights violation that may have occurred but are not reported.
“It is obvious that none of this can be done without allocation of adequate funds for the same, which must be done by the States’/Union Territories’ Finance Departments at the very earliest.”
- SHO’s responsibilities include CCTV data maintenance, backup of data, fault rectification etc.
“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.”
- All Police Stations should have CCTV systems 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.
- The internet systems that are provided must also be systems which provide clear image resolutions and audio. 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.
- 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.
Directions to Union of India
- file an affidavit in which it will update this Court on the constitution and workings of the Central Oversight Body (COB), giving full particulars thereof.
- install CCTV cameras and recording equipment in the offices of:
(i) Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)
(ii) National Investigation Agency (NIA)
(iii) Enforcement Directorate (ED)
(iv) Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB)
(v) Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI)
(vi) Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO)
(vii) Any other agency which carries out interrogations and has the power of arrest.
“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.”
- The COB shall perform the same function as the SLOC for the offices of investigative/enforcement agencies mentioned above both in Delhi and outside Delhi wherever they be located.
How will installation of CCTV Cameras curb custodial violence?
- The SLOC and the COB, where applicable, shall give directions to all Police Stations, investigative/enforcement agencies to prominently display at the entrance and inside the police stations/offices of investigative/enforcement agencies about the coverage of the concerned premises by CCTV. This shall be done by large posters in English, Hindi and vernacular language. It shall further mention 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.
“it shall be clearly mentioned therein that 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.”
What is to be done if force used at Police Stations?
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.
- 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 Commission/Court can then immediately summon CCTV camera footage in relation to the incident for its safe keeping, which may then be made available to an investigation agency in order to further process the complaint made to it.
[Paramvir Singh Saini v. Baljit Singh, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 983, decided on 02.12.2020]
*Justice RF Nariman had penned this judgment. Read more about him here.
Amicus Curiae Siddhartha Dave
Attorney General for India K.K. Venugopal,
Addl. Solicitor General of India Madhvi Divan,
Advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan for the intervenor
 In Shafhi Mohammad v. State of Himachal Pradesh, (2018) 2 SCC 801, it was directed
steps are taken to introduce videography in investigation, particularly for crime scene as desirable and acceptable best practice as suggested by the Committee of the MHA to strengthen the Rule of Law.
with a view to implement the Plan of Action prepared by the Committee, a Central Oversight Body (COB) be set up by the MHA forthwith. The COB may issue directions from time to time. Suggestions of the Committee in its report may also be kept in mind. The COB will be responsible for further planning and implementation of use of videography.
funding for this project may be initially by the Centre to the extent possible and a central server may be set up. These suggestions may be considered by the COB.
in every State an oversight mechanism be created whereby an independent committee can study the CCTV camera footages and periodically publish report of its observations. Let the COB issue appropriate instructions in this regard at the earliest. The COB may also compile information as to compliance of such instructions in the next three months and give a report to this Court.