The Nagpur police has reiterated its stand on citizens video shooting police officers performing duties in tandem with Bombay High Court’s order of July 26, 2022 whereby it had held that a police station is not a ‘prohibited place’ as defined under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).
On June 13, Nagpur Deputy Police Commissioner issued a notice to all police stations in Nagpur reiterating the court’s stand. The notice states that if any person comes to the police station and shoots a video of police personnel, it does not amount to an offence and that no police personnel should stop such a person from taking pictures or shooting a video. A similar notice was issued on December 28, 2022 by the Nagpur Police and yet the orders were not being followed. The June notice states that despite the December notice, they received information that police personnel were obstructing people from taking pictures or videos in police stations or of police officers on duty.
Nagpur Police Commissioner, Amitesh Kumar, addressing the media said, “the legal position is that a police station is a public place and the police personnel are public servants. In the interest of transparency, those who want to record videos of police officers, they can do so and nobody can file a case against them. Even when police officers are performing their duty on the streets, their videos can be recorded. Only in case of female officers, their dignity should be upheld and no such videos should be taken that would hurt the modesty of a woman. Apart from this, people have the right to record videos of police personnel in the police station or on the streets in the course of their duty and nobody should stop them or obstruct them”.
Bombay High Court’s stand
The order in question order was delivered by the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on July 26, 2022 whereby the bench of Justices Manish Pitale and Valmiki Menezes had quashed a case lodged against one Ravindra Upadhyay under OSA for recording a video inside a police station in March 2018. The bench held that a police station is not a ‘prihibited place’ as defined under section 2(8) of OSA. The definition is exhaustive, however, it does not include a police station in it. The court had clearly stated that shooting a video inside a police station is not an offence in itself under the OSA.
In another order, in December 2022, the Bombay High Court had quashed an FIR filed against a man from Solapur who was booked for spying under the official Secrets Act (OSA). The bench of Justice Revati Mohite-Dere and Justice Prithviraj Chavan had held that the law cannot be misused to torment citizens. The court had expressed shock that the FIR was filed because the man was clicking a photograph of the police station in Akluj, Solapur.
The court even directed compensation of Rs.25,000 to be paid to the petitioner and the same to be recovered from the salary of the police personnel who lodged a complaint against the petitioner. “We are shocked and appalled, how the concerned police officer could have even lodged an offence… We cannot comprehend how an FIR could have even been registered on the basis of the said photograph, that too, for a serious offence under Section 3 of the Official Secrets Act,” the bench observed.
The petitioner was clicking photographs of a police officer speaking in a friendly manner with the person with whom he had a family dispute.
“Invocation of Section 3 of the Act can have drastic consequences on the person against whom it is invoked. It could impact one’s reputation, job, career and so on. It cannot be lightly invoked, to jeopardise someone’s life and career. Law cannot be misused / abused and must not be used as a tool for harassing or tormenting persons. It is the duty of the police to protect people and act in accordance with law,” Justice Mohit-Dere had orally observed, reported The Indian Express.