Bombay High Court orders CCTVs in Police Stations to monitor custodial deaths

Bombay High Court orders CCTVs in Police Stations to monitor custodial deaths

A Bombay High Court Bench comprising of Justice V.M. Kanade and Justice P.D. Kode on Wednesday ordered installation of CCTV cameras in Police Stations, with a compliance report to be filed within four weeks.

The Bench reportedly directed magisterial inquiry against the police officials accused in a custodial death case. It also said that custodial death cases should be treated on “high-priority basis and a special public prosecutor should be appointed, who should be assisted by a woman public prosecutor.”

The tapes of the recording were directed to be preserved at least for a year, the Senior Police Inspector or In-Charge of the Police Station being responsible for ensuring that the CCTVs are operational.

The amicus curiae, Advocate Yug Chaudhary submitted that in most cases of custodial death, the victim is found to have been detained illegally, never produced before the magistrate. He pointed out that even the Law Commission of India had recommended the installation of CCTV cameras in Police Stations. The Nagpur bench of the HC had also directed the state to ensure complete CCTV surveillance at all police stations, but nothing has been done so far.

The Court directed the Constitutional mandate under Article 22 of the Indian Constitution to produce the arrested person before a Magistrate within 24 hours needs to be "scrupulously followed in letter and spirit." Immediately after the arrest, relatives of the accused should be informed of arrest and reason.

The Court observed, "Safety, health and well being of the accused will be the responsibility of the arresting officer, investigating officer and the station house officer.” Also, if an accused in police custody is found to be injured, he shall be immediately taken to nearby hospital and provided "best medical attention" and the injuries should be photographed.

In addition, in case of death in custody, the Court directed that the post mortem should be videographed and preserved. Special Public Prosecutors were directed to be appointed, assisted with a woman prosecutor to handle such matters. Following an acquittal in such matters, the prosecutor has been asked to submit a report to the commissioner of police giving reasons for the acquittal.

The Court is hearing two petitions regarding custodial deaths, demanding a CBI probe into the matter.

In the custodial killing of Wadala youth Agnelo Valdaris, the Court was informed by CBI that no-one was co-operating with the investigation and that they would need more time for the investigation. The progress report was submitted in a sealed envelope. The court asked the CBI to file a report in the probe’s progress in six weeks.

According to the data released by the National Crime Records Bureau, Maharashtra accounted for 23.48 per cent of custodial deaths in the country over the last 15 years. Between 1999 and 2013 there were 333 custodial deaths in the state - over 23 per cent of all custodial deaths in India had taken place in Maharashtra. However, only 45 FIRs had been lodged, 19 charge sheets filed and zero convictions. The high court said that the statistics were ''alarming''.

Earlier, the Court had observed that a mechanism should be developed to prevent custodial deaths and excessive use of force during interrogation. Read the LiveLaw story, here.

Read the HC’s remarks about victims of custodial deaths belonging to a minority community here.