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January 10, 2021

SC orders installation of CCTV cameras in all police stations

by Rubina Dsouza in Legal Court Judgement

SC orders installation of CCTV cameras in all police stations

Introduction

Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the installation of security cameras at all police stations and offices of investigating agencies which conduct interrogations and have the power to arrest, in a landmark order meant to prevent deaths in custody.

Set up of Central Oversight Body

  • SC in Shafhi Mohammad v. State of Himachal Pradesh (2018), directed that a Central Oversight Body (COB) 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.
  • SC, while considering the directions issued in D.K. Basu Vs. State of West Bengal & Others (2015), 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.
  • SC further directed that the COB may issue appropriate directions from time to time so as to ensure that use of videography becomes a reality in a phased manner.
  • Pursuant to the aforesaid directions a COB was constituted by the Ministry of Home Affairs 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.
  • Accordingly, directions were issued to the Administrators of the Union Territory, State Governments and other Central Agencies for effective implementation of the use of photography and videography at the crime scenes, and to furnish an Action Taken Report on the implementation of the use of videography in the crime scene.

Monitoring by SC

SC, impleaded all the States and Union Territories to find out the exact position of CCTV cameras qua each Police Station as well as the constitution of Oversight Committees.

Pursuant to the directions of SC, Compliance Affidavits and Action Taken Reports were 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 majority of the Compliance Affidavits and Action Taken Reports failed to disclose the exact position of CCTV cameras in each Police Station. The affidavits were lacking details with respect to:

  • the total number of Police Stations functioning in the respective State and Union Territory
  • total number of CCTV cameras installed in each and every Police Station
  • the positioning of the CCTV cameras already installed
  • working condition of the CCTV cameras
  • whether the CCTV cameras have a recording facility, if yes, then for how many days/hours, were not disclosed.
  • Constitution of Oversight Committees and/or details with respect to the Oversight Committees already constituted in the respective States and Union Territory were also not been disclosed.

SC directions regarding constitution of Oversight Committee

The State Level Oversight Committee (SLOC) must consist of:

  • The Secretary/Additional Secretary, Home Department
  • Secretary/Additional Secretary, Finance Department
  • The Director General/Inspector General of Police; and
  • The Chairperson/member of the State Women’s Commission.

The District Level Oversight Committee (DLOC) should comprise of:

  • The Divisional Commissioner/ Commissioner of Divisions/ Regional Commissioner/ Revenue Commissioner Division of the District (by whatever name called);
  • The District Magistrate of the District
  • A Superintendent of Police of that District; and
  • A mayor of a municipality within the District/ a Head of the Zilla Panchayat in rural areas.

SC directions regarding duty of Oversight Committee

It shall be the duty of the SLOC to see that the directions passed by SC are carried out. Amongst others, the duties shall consist of:

  • Purchase, distribution and installation of CCTVs and its equipment;
  • Obtaining the budgetary allocation for the same;
  • Continuous monitoring of maintenance and upkeep of CCTVs and its equipment;
  • Carrying out inspections and addressing the grievances received from the DLOC; and
  • To call for monthly reports from the DLOC and immediately address any concerns like faulty equipment.

Likewise, the DLOC shall have the following obligations:

  • Supervision, maintenance and upkeep of CCTVs and its equipment;
  • Continuous monitoring of maintenance and upkeep of CCTVs and its equipment;
  • To interact with the Station House Officer (SHO) as to the functioning and maintenance of CCTVs and its equipment; and
  • To send monthly reports to the SLOC about the functioning of CCTVs and allied equipment.
  • 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.

SC directions regarding duty of SHO

  • 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 inform the DLOC of the arrest / interrogations carried out in that police station during the said period and forward the said record 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.

Directions of SC pertaining to CCTV’s in police stations

  • 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, Sub-Inspector’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.
  • The storage of CCTV camera footage 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

SC addressed issue of custodial deaths

  • 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.

Direction to install CCTV cameras in other offices

In addition, the Union of India was also directed to install CCTV cameras and recording equipment in 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)
  • 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.

Display of Directions

  • 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 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.
  • It shall also mention that CCTV footage is preserved for a certain minimum time period, which shall not be less than 6 months, and the victim has a right to have the same secured in the event of violation of his human rights.