The Supreme Court has issued directions to all States and Union Territories to comply with its December 2020 order of installing CCTV cameras in all police stations and investigation agencies. Through its order dated March 2, the top court expressed its displeasure as both the Centre and the States/UTs failed to take the matter seriously.
A Bench comprising Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman, BR Gavai and Hrishikesh Roy said, “We reiterate that these are the matters of utmost importance concerning the citizens of this country under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”
On December 2, 2020, the top court had passed a detailed and specific order directing states and the Centre to take concrete steps towards ensuring that every police station in the country and all investigating agencies have CCTV cameras in their premises. The court had also sought action plan affidavits from all states within 6 weeks to ensure that the States are doing their bit to end custodial torture.
Displeasure at Centre’s excuses
The Supreme Court observed that the Centre has failed to comply with its directions related to installation of CCTV cameras in investigation agencies like Central Bureau of Investigation, Enforcement Directorate, Narcotics Control Bureau, National Investigation Agency, etc. The Bench said,
“Paragraph 19 of our order dated 02.12.2020 has not yet been followed. We direct the Union of India to file an affidavit within three weeks from today, stating exactly how much financial outlay is required, and the timeline within which they are going to carry out the directions contained in the second sentence, in particular, of Paragraph 19 of the aforesaid order.”
When the Union Government tried to seek an adjournment, LiveLaw quoted the Bench saying (to Solicitor General Tushar Mehta), “We are getting a distinct impression that you are dragging your feet. What kind of letter (seeking adjournment) you have circulated?” The Solicitor General replied that adjournment was sought having regard to the “ramifications” of the order.
To this, Justice Nariman reportedly reacted, “What ramifications? We are not concerned about the ramifications. This concerns the rights of the citizens. This concerns the rights of citizenry under Article 21 of the Constitution. We are not accepting the excuses given in the letter.” The Solicitor General, thereafter, requested the Bench to ignore the adjournment letter, reported LiveLaw.
Bench pulls up States/UTs
The Bench then perused the affidavits filed by States and Union Territories and expressed its displeasure at the inadequate action plan. For Haryana, the Bench said that their orders should have been followed in “letter and spirit.”
“Except for stating what the figures of estimated cost are and giving a timeline of 1 ½ years, nothing has been done. We direct the State of Haryana to allocate funds for the purposes mentioned in our orders within a period of four weeks from today”, said the Bench.
The apex court told Telangana to allocate funds for setting up of CCTV cameras in all places in accordance with its December order. “So far as the State of Telangana is concerned, nothing has been done, except to state that the budgetary proposal has been sought from the Commissioner. We direct the State of Telangana to allocate funds for the purposes mentioned in our orders within a period of four weeks from today,” recorded the order.
Dissatisfied with Karnataka’s affidavit, the court noted, “All that is stated is that there is an administrative approval for Rs. 18.5 crores and that Cabinet approval has been sought. No timeline has been given thereafter. The State of Karnataka is refusing to implement our orders in letter as well as in spirit. Therefore, we direct the State of Karnataka to allocate funds for the purposes mentioned in our orders within a period of four weeks from today.”
Similar reactions for Uttar Pradesh were recorded in the order albeit the Supreme Court recognised the fact that it stands apart in size and might take more time to comply with the order because of the high number of police stations. However, the court said, “We still find that the affidavit does not address what exactly we wished for, and the timeline that is stated is too long. Given the above, we, therefore, direct the State of Uttar Pradesh to complete budgetary allocation for all Police Stations within the State within a period of three months from today. So far as the implementation and installation of cameras is concerned, we grant a further period of six months after the budgetary allocation takes place i.e., 9 months from today.”
Thereafter, the court came down heavily on Madhya Pradesh that seemed to have done nothing constructive since December last year. “As far as the State of Madhya Pradesh is concerned, nothing seems to have really been done in implementation of our orders and the State appears to be dragging its feet, stating that it requires till the end of Financial year 2022-2023 for implementation of our orders. Given the fact that Madhya Pradesh is also territorially a very large State, in which there are a large number of Police Stations, therefore, we direct the State of Madhya Pradesh to allocate funds for the purposes mentioned in our orders within a period of four weeks from today.”
The court was “most displeased” with Bihar’s affidavit. The Bench said, “It shows a complete lack of any regard for the citizens’ Fundamental Rights under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and for our orders.”
For other States and UTs like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Tripura, Manipur, Rajasthan, Andaman, Sikkim, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Ladakh, Nagaland, the court charted out a new timeline for them to file fresh affidavits about budget allocation and installation work.
With respect to Tamil Nadu, the court said, “Things seem to have moved since our last order and time is required till December, 2021 to complete installations and follow other directions in accordance with our order. Given the fact that elections are to be held in the State, we accept the Secretary’s affidavit and direct completion by 31st December, 2021.”
The matter has been listed on April 6, 2021.
The order may be read here:
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