New Delhi: The Supreme Court directed the Centre to install CCTV cameras at the offices of investigating and enforcement agencies, including all Police stations, CBI, NIA, ED, NCB, DRI, SFIO and any other agency having power of interrogations and arrest.
The bench comprising Justices RF Nariman, KM Joseph and Aniruddha Bose passed a path-breaking Judgment against the human rights violations of the person at the offices of investigating and enforcement agencies.
The apex court, in Shafhi Mohammad Vs State of Himachal Pradesh (2018) 5 SCC 311, directed the Ministry of Home Affairs to setup Central Oversight Body (COB), “to implement the plan of action with respect to the use of videography in the crime scene during the investigation”. The COB was then constituted on 9 May, 2018. The court considering the directions issued in D.K. Basu Vs. State of West Bengal & Others (2015), observes the need of independent committee at state level.
“considering the directions issued in D.K. Basu Vs. State of West Bengal & Others (2015) 8 SCC 744, held that there was a need for further directions that in every State an oversight mechanism be created whereby an independent committee can study the CCTV camera footages and periodically publish a report of its observations thereon. The COB was further directed to issue appropriate instructions in this regard at the earliest.”
The bench observed that, “details with respect to the Oversight Committees already constituted in the respective States and Union Territory have also not been disclosed.”
So far as constitution of Oversight Committees, the bench issued the guidelines to constitute the bodies at state and district level. The State Level Oversight Committee (SLOC) to be constituted at the State level while the District Level Oversight Committee (DLOC) at the district level.
The bench directed that, the SLOC must consist of:
“(i) The Secretary/Additional Secretary, Home Department; (ii) Secretary/Additional Secretary, Finance Department; (iii) The Director General/Inspector General of Police; and (iv) The Chairperson/member of the State Women’s Commission.”
The DLOC should comprise of:
“(i) The Divisional Commissioner/ Commissioner of Divisions/ Regional Commissioner/ Revenue Commissioner Division of the District (by whatever name called); (ii) The District Magistrate of the District; (iii) A Superintendent of Police of that District; and (iv) A mayor of a municipality within the District/ a Head of the Zilla Panchayat in rural areas.”
The bench directed to ensure that the CCTV covers the maximum possible area.
“Further, in order to ensure that no part of a Police Station is left uncovered, it is imperative to ensure that CCTV cameras are installed at all entry and exit points; main gate of the police station; all lock-ups; all corridors; lobby/the reception area; all verandas/outhouses, 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.”
The bench also directed to ensure that the CCTV system should be capable of storing audio and video footage for a period of 18 months as well as it should be equipped with night vision.
“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.”
The SHO of the concerned police station has been given the responsibility to ensure the installation of working conditions CCTV cameras in the station and also for corrective action to restore the functioning of non-functional CCTV cameras. It has also been directed that, the SHO to immediately report to the DLOC regarding any fault with the equipment or malfunctioning of CCTVs.
“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 aggrieved person can approach to the State Human Rights Commission and also to the Human Rights Courts of their district. The Commission will then summon CCTV footage.
“Whenever there is information of force being used at police stations resulting in serious injury and/or custodial deaths, it is necessary that persons be free to complain for a redressal of the same. Such complaints may not only be made to the State Human Rights Commission, which is then to utilise its powers, more particularly under Sections 17 and 18 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, for redressal of such complaints, but also to Human Rights Courts, which must then be set up in each District of every State/Union Territory under Section 30 of the aforesaid Act. The Commission/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 SLOC and the COB to direct all investigation and enforcement agencies to display CCTV coverage of premise in English, Hindi and local language along with the right of the person to complain about Human Rights violations.
“The SLOC and the COB (where applicable) shall give directions to all Police Stations, investigative/enforcement agencies to prominently display at the entrance and inside the police stations/offices of investigative/enforcement agencies about the coverage of the concerned premises by CCTV. This shall be done by large posters in English, Hindi and vernacular language. In addition to the above, it shall be clearly mentioned therein 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 cognizance of an offence. It 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.”
“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 cognizance of an offence. It 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”, in the order