6 July 2021 2:57 PM GMT
The Bombay High Court, Nagpur Bench, has observed that the act of a maintenance agency, stopping Police access to CCTV cameras that are installed in public places for monitoring criminal activities, interferes in performance of public duty and is prima facie questionable in law.It has therefore asked the State of Maharashtra and Larsen and Tourbo (maintenance agency in this case) to settle...
The Bombay High Court, Nagpur Bench, has observed that the act of a maintenance agency, stopping Police access to CCTV cameras that are installed in public places for monitoring criminal activities, interferes in performance of public duty and is prima facie questionable in law.
It has therefore asked the State of Maharashtra and Larsen and Tourbo (maintenance agency in this case) to settle their contractual disputes amicably with regard to payment of dues for CCTV maintenance, within 15 days and resume the monitoring set up.
A division bench comprising of Justices Anil S Kilor and Sunil B Shukre observed,
"If the monitors and TV Screens are to go blank, police will not able to control and monitor the activities of the criminals and also be unable to ensure smooth carriage of vehicular traffic. It may also have cascading effect on the Society in general in the sense that slowly and gradually the members of the public would come to know of the loss of control over the activities of the criminals by police and a sense of fear will grip the whole society."
"Therefore, we are of the view that something must be done by all concerned authorities, including the parties to the contract, and that they must get together their hands and resolve the inter se dispute between them while ensuring at the same time that public interest and public safety are duly protected."
The development came after an urgent application was moved in the in the suo moto PIL wherein the Bench had earlier directed the Nagpur Municipal Corporation for installation of CCTV cameras to ensure public safety in Nagpur, monitor activities of criminals, streamline the vehicular and pedestrian traffic and also instill fear in the mind of prospective offenders.
Pursuant to the directives, a project namely "Nagpur Smart and Sustainable City Development Corporation Limited" was undertaken after which 3700 CCTV cameras were installed in the city. The task of maintenance of the CCTV cameras including hardware functioning was given to Larsen & Tourbo.
The Court was apprised about some issues of non-payment of dues payable to Larsen & Tourbo under the contract. The amicus curiae informed the Bench that although the issues between the parties are inter se, they should not affect the public interest as the CCTV cameras were not functioning after L&T stooped the access of these CCTV cameras by police and parties concerned.
Hearing the aforesaid submission, the Court opined thus:
"The consequence as has been submitted by learned Amicus Curiae and rightly so, is deleterious to public interest. In fact, if no access is provided to police, the very purpose of installation of CCTV cameras would be defeated and it may also go against the spirit of the directions issued by this Court regarding installation of the cameras."
"…a question would arise whether any maintenance agency like Larsen and Toubro Limited has a right to stop access and if not, how such an act of access stoppage would be viewed by law? At this juncture, we refrain from making any attempt to answer the question as we think that there is available a better way of resolution of the issue and, therefore, it must be explored first, in the spirit of the saying "wisdom is the better part of valour"," the Court said further.
Observing that there is some communication developed between the employer and the contractor, the Court opined that the same is having an adverse impact on the public interest and public safety in the City of Nagpur.
"Considering the larger public interest that now we urge the parties to the contract to resolve the issue amicably and we further make our request to the Government entities involved in the project to ensure that all the outstanding amounts, which are due and payable and about which there is no dispute, are paid to the Larsen and Toubro Limited at the earliest. We further request the Government entities to pay as a first step towards the same, substantial amount out of the total outstanding balance, which is undisputed and which is due and payable to the Larsen and Toubro Limited." The Court directed.
Directing that the payment will be made within the next 15 days, the Court adjourned the hearing to July 16.
Case Title: Court on its own motion v. Union of India
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