The Supreme Court has directed Chief Secretaries of all states and Union Territories to submit to the Court information about the exact position of CCTV cameras in police stations as well as the constitution of Oversight Committees.
This direction has come in connection with a special leave petition filed by one Paramvir Singh Saini in appeal against a 2016 judgment passed by High Court Of Punjab & Haryana. The bench comprising Justices RF Nariman, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee appointed Senior advocate Siddharth Dave as amicus curiae in this case, in July.
The petition largely addressed issues of audio-video recordings of statements as well as the larger question as to the installation of CCTV cameras in police stations. The bench had thus issued notice to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on July 16.
The bench also referred to the directions passed by the court in a previous case of Shafhi Mohammad v. State of Himachal Pradesh [(2018) 5 SCC 311] whereby the court had asked investigating agencies to introduce videography in investigation, particularly for crime scene and had directed MHA to set up a Central Oversight Body (COB) for further planning and implementation of use of videography while giving the COB the mandate to “issue appropriate directions so as to ensure that use of videography becomes a reality in a phased manner and in first phase of implementation by 15th July, 2018 crime scene videography must be introduced at least at some places as per viability and priority determined by the COB.”
The court had also stressed upon “need for a further direction that in every State an oversight mechanism be created whereby an independent committee can study the CCTV camera footages and periodically publish report of its observations.”
During the August 5 hearing, the bench had directed that all affidavits filed in compliance of the directions of the court in Shafhi Mohammad case be placed before this bench for perusal. In the Shafhi Mohammad case, the court had directed the COB to file an affidavit of progress by July 31, 2018.
On the September 16 hearing, the bench stated that it perused the report submitted by Dave as well as by Union of India and ordered, “we wish to know the exact position as to CCTV cameras in Police Stations as well as the constitution of Oversight Committees”. Accordingly, the bench directed that all States and Union Territories be impleaded and sought from them the following information:
1. What exactly is the position with respect to CCTV cameras fitted in each and every Police Station in the State or Union Territory and
2. What is the position qua constitution of Oversight Committees in accordance with our order dated 03.04.2018.
The court issued further warning to all the States, “We also expect the Chief Secretary of the States and Union Territories to take this matter seriously and in right earnest since it involves the fundamental rights of the citizen under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The data to be furnished to this Court positively before the next date of hearing i.e. Tuesday, the 24th November, 2020.”
The complete order may be read here.