After directing installation of CCTV cameras inside the Courts, and at important locations within the Court complexes in at least two districts in every State and Union Territory, the Supreme Court, on Monday, considered it desirable for CCTV cameras to be installed in all subordinate Courts.
The Bench comprising Justice A.K. Goel and Justice U.U. Lalit opined that such installation should be undertaken in a phased manner, as considered appropriate by the respective High Courts. It, therefore, directed that the schedule for such installation be laid down within one month, and information be furnished to the Apex Court within two months. Audio recording, it said, may also be done.
“We are satisfied, after considering the submissions and perusing the studies which have been brought to our notice that installation of CCTV Cameras will be in the interest of justice. Any apprehension to the contrary needs to be repelled. We have already incorporated safeguards of footage of recording not being given for any purpose other than the purpose for which the High Court considers it appropriate. We have also directed that the R.T.I provisions will not apply to CCTV camera recordings in our Order dated 28.03.2017,” the Bench observed.
The Court further opined that similar orders may be issued by the Government for Tribunals, noting that recordings will help the constitutional authorities and the High Courts in exercising jurisdiction under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution over the Tribunals.
It, thereby, directed Additional Solicitor General, Mr. Maninder Singh to take up the issue with the concerned authorities, “so that an appropriate direction is issued by the concerned authority for installation of CCTV cameras in Tribunals in same manner as in Courts and an affidavit filed in this Court”.
“We direct the Union of India, Ministry of Information and Technology in consultation with E-Committee of this Court to lay down technical specifications and other modelities, including price range and sources of supply for installation of CCTV cameras in Courts. This may be done within a period of one month from today and such information may be provided to all the High Courts. The duration for which audio and video recordings may be retained may normally be three months, unless otherwise directed by any High Court”.
On 28 March, while considering a Petition filed by one Pradyuman Bisht, the Court had directed, “We direct that at least in two districts in every State/Union Territory (with the exception of small States/Union Territories where it may be considered to be difficult to do so by the concerned High Courts) CCTV cameras (without audio recording) may be installed inside the courts and at such important locations of the court complexes as may be considered appropriate.” This process was directed to be completed in three months.
It had now received reports from twelve High Courts. While eight of these informed the Court that CCTV cameras had already been installed within their jurisdiction, four were in the process of doing the same. It, therefore, directed the High Courts who have not submitted their reports to do so, and listed the matter for further consideration on 21 November.
The Bench was also informed by Mr. Singh about the reservations expressed in a few reports regarding the effect of CCTV cameras on the privacy of judicial officers.
Mr. Singh, however, contended that proceedings being open to all, there should be no question of privacy. “CCTV cameras are culture of the day and promotes good governance,” he submitted. He further pointed out that there was “acknowledged utility of CCTV cameras in recording contemporary events which may be useful for any monitoring authority”.
Besides, the Court was informed that some of the High Courts, in fact, suggested audio recording of proceedings as well, submitting that it would “advance the interest of justice”.
“Learned ASG and learned amicus curiae point out that as per Article 235 of the Constitution of India, the High Court is to exercise power of superintendence over the subordinate Courts. There are untoward instances which may take place in lower Courts and it may be useful if proceedings in Court are captured on the CCTV camera by audio as well as video. This can assist the High Courts in exercising the constitutional power under Article 235 of the Constitution of India,” the Apex Court noted in this regard.
It was further apprised of a variation in the costs and technical specifications of installation of CCTV cameras, in the reports submitted by the High Courts. The Bench, therefore, directed the Union of India, Ministry of Information and Technology in consultation with E-Committee of the Supreme Court to lay down technical specifications and other modalities, including price range and sources of supply, for installation of CCTV cameras in Courts.
“This may be done within a period of one month from today and such information may be provided to all the High Courts. The duration for which audio and video recordings may be retained may normally be three months, unless otherwise directed by any High Court,” it ordered.