The Gujarat High Court recently recommended that the State government take initiatives to implement the guidelines issued by the Apex Court in the DK Basu v. State of West Bengal and to install CCTV cameras with night vision and maintain their records for 6 months to deal with police atrocities in the region.
A Bench comprising Justice Sonia Gokani and Justice Mauna Bhatt was hearing a habeas corpus petition involving an inter-religious couple when it came down heavily on the Gujarat police and directed the concerned authorities to intimate all police stations about the guidelines issued in the Paramvir Singh Saini case.
"We expect the State to complete the task of installing the new gadgets and also follow the directions of the Apex Court as earliest possible".
The Court also opined that any incident of the alleged atrocities or involvement of the police officers in violation of mandatory guidelines shall at least be intimated to the Head of the District, i.e. to the Superintendent of Police or the Police Commissioner, as the case may be.
However, since the matter was pending before the District Court, the Bench refused to intervene and granted liberty to the petitioner to take appropriate remedy through a personal complaint. Nevertheless, the High Court 'expected' the State to complete the task of installing new gadgets and following the directions of the Apex Court at the earliest.
The Petitioner herein had sought the direction that the Police Inspector (Respondent No. 2) release his son along with the girl he intended to marry from the Inspector's custody. It was averred that the action of Respondent No. 2 in detaining them was 'absolutely illegal.' The detenues had intended to marry each other under the Special Marriages Act and the notice was issued under Section 5. However, before the ceremony could be performed, Respondent No. 2 took both of them away and some of the family members were beaten up according to the petitioner.
It was also noted by the Bench that as soon as the habeas corpus petition was filed, they were released. Subsequently, the High Court was informed that the Superintendent of Police was conducting inquiry with utmost seriousness even as the girl agreed to join her parents out of her own volition. Therefore, the Court held that the petition did not survive as the corpus was no longer in illegal custody.
However, the Superintended of Police was required to remain present before the Court in the absence of any report produced before the Court.
While examining the petition, the Bench deemed it appropriate to examine the guidelines issued by the Home Department in relation to the preservation of CCTV camera footage when there are complaints against police officials. It observed that the camera footage was maintained for only a limited period of 30 days which was not in accordance with guidelines laid down by the Apex Court. The Bench remarked:
"It is admitted that the issue relating to the missing girls and the allegations of harassment by the police when are dealt with, the complaints regarding the missing persons have not been reported by a Special Report, however, the harassment by local police officers if comes to the knowledge of the Senior Officer and if it is escalated by complaint or it is brought to the knowledge of higher authority by the supervisory officer or SHO, the complainant can approach the Range Head or the Police Head i.e. the Director General and Inspector General of Police, Home Department, District Level Police Complaint Authority."
Placing reliance on the guidelines of 2018 which were issued b the Office of Director General and Inspector General of Police concerning the installation of the CCTV camera systems to prevent custodial violence, the High Court emphasised that the Superintended of Police or the Police Commissioner must monitor the footage at least once a week.
Reference was made to the PARAMVIR SINGH SAINI VS. BALJIT SINGH AND OTHERS, (2021) 1 SCC 184 and the DK Basu judgements for the guidelines enumerated by the Apex Court concerning CCTV camera systems in police stations. The Apex Court had laid down:
- CCTV cameras should remain functional and that SHO must report to the authorities in case of fault in equipment in order to effectuate immediate repair or replacement. There should be regular maintenance of CCTV data, backup of data, fault rectification by the SHO.
- CCTV cameras must be installed at all entry, exit points, lock-ups, corridors, lobbies, reception areas, verandas, Inspector's room, station hall, station compound, outside washrooms etc.
- The cameras must be equipped with night vision and consist of audio and video footage. The records of the CCTV camera must be preserved for 18 months and not less than 1 year.
- In the instance, that force is used, the State Human Rights Commission should be immediately approached for redressal.
- The Union of India also directed CCTV cameras in the offices of CBI, NIA, ED, NCB,DRI and the Serious Fraud Investigation Office and any other agency which carried out interrogations and had the power of arrest.
Case Title: VASAYA YUNUSALI ALARAKHABHAI Versus STATE OF GUJARAT
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Guj) 160