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'CCTVs In Police Stations Deliberately Kept Non-Functional' : Bombay High Court Seeks Report From Maharashtra Govt

Sharmeen Hakim
28 Jan 2022 4:22 PM GMT
CCTVs In Police Stations Deliberately Kept Non-Functional : Bombay High Court Seeks Report From Maharashtra Govt
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The Bombay High Court has taken strong exception to the seemingly deliberate non-functioning of CCTV cameras inside police stations and directed Maharashtra's Chief Secretary to take "stern action" against police officers for not reporting cameras that required repair.A division bench of Justices SJ Kathawalla and MN Jadhav, in an order earlier this week observed, "Pursuant to...

 The Bombay High Court has taken strong exception to the seemingly deliberate non-functioning of CCTV cameras inside police stations and directed Maharashtra's Chief Secretary to take "stern action" against police officers for not reporting cameras that required repair.

A division bench of Justices SJ Kathawalla and MN Jadhav, in an order earlier this week observed, "Pursuant to the directions of the Supreme Court [Paramvir Singh Saini V/s. Baljit Singh and Ors], the CCTV systems are installed in the police stations, merely by way of compliance to the order, but the same are intentionally either not maintained properly to serve the purpose it is meant to serve, or are deliberately kept non–functional, so that no evidence would be available in any matter, and no one is any the wiser as to what transpired at the police stations."

The court also directed the Chief Secretary, State of Maharashtra, to submit a report to the Court setting out the data of functional as well as non-functional CCTVs at all the police stations in the State, and the length/duration for which the data recorded in CCTV's is stored, as also the steps taken to keep a backup of the said data. The report is to be submitted on February 15, 2022.

The bench was hearing a writ petition filed by one Somnath Giri and another challenging the "fabricated and "arbitrary" notice of January 8, 2022, issued by Sinnar Police station of Maharashtra's Nashik district. The notice issued under section 149 (for prevention of cognisable offence) of the Criminal Procedure Code was issued to allegedly "maintain law and order" and to prevent any offence arising out of alleged threats given by petitioners to complainants in a criminal case.

The bench had, during an earlier hearing this month, had noted that the police's story of issuing notices to the petitioners as well as the complainant "at the same time" seemed false, as the fonts of the two notices were different and they signed by different officers despite having been issued at the same time. During the hearing on Tuesday, the bench noted that Sachin Patil, Superintendent of Police (Rural) Nashik, and the two officers who had signed the two notices were unable to offer an explanation to the court's findings.

While the court accepted unconditional apology from the police officials and decided to give them benefit of doubt based on the extract of the General Diary produced before the court, it recorded grave dissatisfaction on the point of CCTV not working at the police station. The court had put that as a query to verify the statement made by the two police officers before the court.

The bench then cited observations made by a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court in the case of Paramvir Singh Saini in great detail on the issue of audio-video records of statements recorded under Section 161 Code of Criminal Procedure as well as the larger question with respect to installation of CCTV cameras in police stations. In orders passed in this case in 2020, the SC bench had also referred to the case of Shafhi Mohammad V/s. State of Himachal Pradesh which was on the point of constitution of Oversight Committees for the CCTV cameras to be installed in every police station.

As per this SC order, the duty and responsibility for the working, maintenance and recording of CCTVs was to be of the Station House Officer of the police station concerned and the obligation of any fault in the equipment or malfunctioning of CCTVs to the District Level Oversight Committee (DLOC) was also on the SHO. The DLOC, upon receipt of such a complaint/report from an SHO was directed to immediately request the State Level Oversight Committee (SLOC) for repair and purchase of the equipment, which too had to be done immediately.

With respect to these SC directions, the HC bench made a few observations on the conduct of the police officials in the case which it was hearing. The court said, "Infact, we cannot help but record that the above quoted order of the Supreme Court is regrettably not being followed in spirit." It then noted that the statements made by police officials that they were unable to provide CCTV footage to the court on account of the CCTVs installed at the police station being non-functional, was in breach of the Supreme Court order and issued directions to the Chief Secretary of the State.
Case Title : Somnath Laxman Giri vs State of Maharashtra
Citation : 2022 LiveLaw (Bom) 23




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