In a bid to ensure greater transparency in how the police conduct their operations, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) has joined hands with different organisations of lawyers, farmers and workers, and submitted a memorandum to the Assam Police urging for the installation of CCTV cameras in all police stations.
CJP joins illustrious organisations such as Forum for Social Harmony, AsomMajuri Sramik Union, All India Kishan Mazdoor Sabhaand some local lawyers in this effort. Together we have written to the Director General of Police (DGP) of Assamhighlighting the Supreme Court’s December 2020 judgement mandating installation of CCTVs in police stations.
In December 2020, Supreme Court mandated installation of CCTVs in police stations, giving specific directions on storage of the information thus collected. It also specified locations in police station where such CCTVs should be installed. In July, the Assam Human Rights Commission took suo moto cognizance of 23 people shot at while in police custody, with five dead, since Chief Minister HimantaBiswaSarma took over on May 10.
In light of this, a memorandum has been sent by lawyers and concerned civil society organisationsto the DGP of Assam, bringing to his attention the judgment passed by the Supreme Court on December 3, 2020 in Paramvir Singh Saini vs Baljit Singh (SLP Crl. No. 3543 of 2020) mandating installation of CCTV cameras in police stations.
The signatories of this memo are:
From Citizens for Justice and Peace: Advocate Abhijeet Chaudhury, Advocate Abdur Rahim, Nanda Ghosh and HabibulBepari
From Forum for Social Harmony,Assam: Har Kumar Goswami and Shanti Ranjan Mitra
From AsomMajuri Sramik Union: Mrinal KantiShome andAshit Chakraborty
From All India Kishan Mazdoor Sabha: Faruk Laskar andDebajit Choudhary
The memorandum highlights the importance of this judgement as also the importance of CCTVs to be installed as this allows to record the treatment of persons detained and the conduct of such persons as well as of the officials on duty which further allows scrutiny. The memo points out that not only will the installation of CCTVs in police station help and independently assist an inquiry into custodial deaths but will also act as a deterrent for unwarranted and disproportionate use of power by police upon detainees/accused persons.
The court has also directed that compliance reports be submitted by state to disclose the exact position of CCTV cameras in each Police Station.
The specific directions of the Supreme Court are as follows:
The duty and responsibility for the working, maintenance and recording of CCTVs shall be that of the SHO of the police station concerned.
The SHO of a police station is to inform the DLOC if there is any fault with the equipment or malfunctioning of CCTVs and if CCTVs are not functioning, “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”.
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 court even specified the specific locations within the police stations where such CCTV are to be installed, including but not limited to:
all entry and exit points
main gate of the police station;
lobby/the reception area;
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.
Additional guidleines pertaining to CCTVs are as follows:
CCTV systems that have to be installed must be equipped with night vision and must necessarily consist of audio as well as video footage.
The internet systems that are provided must also be systems which provide clear image resolutions and audio.
Most important of all is the storage of CCTV camera footage which 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.
IMPORTANT: 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.
Once a complaint is made about custodial violence/death, the State Human Rights Commission/Human Rights 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.
The Supreme Court also said in its order, “It is also required that at the entrance and inside the police stations there is a prominent display that the premises are covered by CCTV. This shall be done by large posters in English, Hindi and vernacular language (Assamese, Bengali among others in Assam).”
It further said, “The prominent display outside the police station must also mention 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 cognisance of an offence.”
Additionally, the SC said, “The display outside the police station 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.”
The Hon’ble Supreme Court also made a special note that since these directions are in furtherance of the fundamental rights of each citizen of India guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, and since nothing substantial has been done in this regard for a period of over 2½ years since its first order dated April 3, 2018, the Executive/Administrative/police authorities are to implement this Order both in letter and in spirit as soon as possible.
Background of the case
On November 22, 2016, Justice Fateh Deep Singh of the Punjab & Haryana High Court held that illegal detention of petitioner’s sons by the Police was a violation of their Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution. (Baljit Singh &Ors vs State of Punjab CRWP No. 1245 of 2016)
In 2020, a Special leave Petition in Paramvir Singh Saini vs Baljit Singh (SLP Crl. No. 3543 of 2020)was filed before the top court in pursuance of the same matter, focusing on the larger question of installing CCTVs in police stations. In September 2020, the Bench of Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee, decided to implead all States and Union Territories (UT’s) in the matter to seek their responses on the exact position of installation of CCTV cameras.
The December 2020 judgement in Paramvir Singh casem the bench makes mention of the 2018 judgment of the Supreme Court (Shafi Mohammad v. State of Himachal Pradesh (2018) 5 SCC 311), by Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and Adarsh Kumar Goel, had directed every State to have an oversight mechanism where an independent committee can study the CCTV camera footages and periodically publish report of its observations.
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), in its reports from 2005 to 2018, revealed that 500 deaths of persons in remand were reported out of which, 281 cases were registered, 54 policemen were charge-sheeted. Interestingly, not a single policeman was convicted during that period. Also, 700 deaths of persons before remand were reported out of which, 312 cases were registered, 132 persons were charge-sheeted and merely 7 persons were convicted during such a long period of 13 years.
In the period between 2014 to 2019, 33 persons (6.1% of the 537 who died in police custody) died due to injuries sustained during custody due to physical assault by police, as per NCRB report. In 2019, two of a total 85 (2.4%) deaths in police custody were attributed to assault by police.
The Supreme Court, in all its wisdom has issued these directives to eventually reduce incidents of custodial violence and deaths which have been notoriously on the rise in the past few years. Sine the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) does not record incidents of custodial violence, they remain unreported and if such mechanisms of CCTVs are put in place, accountability amongst police officials will increase.
Thus, this memorandum is pertinent in this regard to ensure compliance by Assam Police and to ensure that no incidents of custodial violence and death go unreported and to bring justice to the victims of these crimes by public officials.
The SC judgement may be read here:
The memorandum may be read here: