On December 2, the Bombay High Court (Aurangabad Bench) has observed that the argument made by the Police that the CCTV system installed in the Police Station was not working cannot be made. (Wajid v State of Maharashtra W.P [Cri.] No. 1111 of 2020)
The Bench of Justices T. V. Nalawade and M. G. Sewlikar was hearing a plea filed by one Wajid over alleged custodial harassment and when he asked for the CCTV camera footage, the same was denied to him, prompting him to move the High Court.
The court observed that, “This cannot be allowed to happen as the purpose behind installing the CCTV system itself is defeated when such submissions are accepted.”
It further directed the District Superintendent of Police, Osmanabad, to make enquiry into the present matter and also into the procedure adopted about working of the CCTV system and maintenance of the record of the CCTV system in the police station.
The Bench noted the submissions made by the Assistant Police Inspector, Umarga Sub-Division of Police which showed that CCTV footage of the police station of the relevant day is not available as on that date system of CCTV was not working.
To this, the court remarked, “This is not the first instance when the concerned police station has informed that CCTV system was not working. Some specific directions are given by this Court at this seat and at the Principal Seat also to see that CCTV systems are installed in every police station and it should cover lockup and other portions of police stations.”
The court further observed the importance of CCTV footage of Police Stations as, “such system controls activities like atrocities against persons who are brought to police station. It is surprising that in many cases submission is made that on that particular day, the CCTV system was not working.”
The court added that in addition to installation, there should be a designated police officer who should be responsible to oversee the everyday working of the system and the recording needs to be seen by some officer and entry about the same should be made in a register.
“This Court wants to see that the registers are maintained in respect of CCTV systems in concerned police stations to ascertain the truthfulness of the submission that CCTV system was not working on that day.
If the CCTV system was not working on April 20, 2020, ordinarily entry of the same in the register could have been taken immediately when fault was found with the CCTV system. There is no such record produced by the learned Additional Public Prosecutor”, the court added.
The Bench took this matter seriously as, “these circumstances create serious suspicion against the concerned police station” and directed the District Superintendent of Police to submit the inquiry report before December 18, 2020, the next date of hearing.
Notably, this order comes on the same day of the groundbreaking Supreme Court judgment in Paramvir Singh Saini v Baljit Singh and Ors (SLP Cri. No. 3543 of 2020), whereby the top court directed the States and Union Territories to install CCTV cameras in all police stations and also issued a comprehensive set of guidelines for strict compliance.
The Bombay HC order may be read here: