2 March 2021 6:43 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Tuesday pulled up the Union Government for seeking more time regarding the installation of CCTV cameras in the offices of Central probe agencies such as CBI, NIA, NCB etc.On December 2, 2020, a bench headed by Justice RF Nariman had issued directions to install CCTV cameras in all police stations across the country to check instances of custodial torture. The...
The Supreme Court on Tuesday pulled up the Union Government for seeking more time regarding the installation of CCTV cameras in the offices of Central probe agencies such as CBI, NIA, NCB etc.
On December 2, 2020, a bench headed by Justice RF Nariman had issued directions to install CCTV cameras in all police stations across the country to check instances of custodial torture. The Central Government was directed to install CCTVs in the offices of Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI), National Investigation Agency(NIA), Enforcement Directorate(ED), Narcotics Control Bureau(NCB), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence(DRI), Serious Fraud Investigation Office(SFIO).
The matter was posted today for reporting compliance. Before that, the Central Government had circulated a letter seeking adjournment.
Expressing displeasure at the letter seeking adjournment, Justice Nariman told the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, "We are getting a distinct impression that you are dragging your feet. What kind of letter you have circulated?".
The Solicitor General replied that adjournment was sought having regard to the 'ramifications' of the order.
"What ramifications? We are not concerned about the ramifications", Justice Nariman shot back. "This concerns the rights of the citizens. This concerns the rights of citizenry under Article 21 of the Constitution. We are not accepting the excuses given in the letter", the judge added.
Following this, the Solicitor General requested the bench to ignore the letter seeking adjournment.
The SG submitted that funds allocation for CCTVs are to be made by the State Government. Then Justice Nariman invited SG's attention to paragraph 19 of the December 2, 2019 order, which had two parts - one was regarding the constitution of a Central Oversight Body and second was regarding CCTVs installation in central agencies.
"We are not concerned with the Central Oversight Body today. We are concerned with the second part of the paragraph", Justice Nariman explained.
"You tell us the funds that are allotted", Justice Nariman told the SG.
The SG requested for ten days time to file an affidavit responding to the query of the court.
Following this, the bench, also comprising Justices B R Gavai and Hrishikesh Roy, passed the following order:
"We heard Solicitor General Shri Tushar Mehhta. The directions in Paragraph 19 of our order dated 2nd December 2020 have not yet been followed. We direct the Union to file an affidavit within 3 seeks stating exactly how much financial outlay is required and the time line within which they are going to carry out the directions contained in the second sentence of parapraph 19 of the aforesaid order".
The bench also examined the chart submitted by amicus curiae Senior Advocate Sidharth Dave regarding the timeline sought by state governments to follow the order of the Court.
The bench was not pleased with the responses given in the affidavits of State Governments.
The bench directed the States to make budgetary allocations within one month from today for the purposes of complying with the court directions and to install the CCTVs within four months after that. In other words, States have been given 5 months from today to install CCTVs in police stations. For poll-bound states of West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam and the UT of Puducherry, time has been given till December 31, 2021.
The State of Uttar Pradesh has been given nine months time (3 months for budgetary allocation and 6 months for implementation) having regard to its vast territorial extent and huge number of police stations. Likewise, the State of Madhya Pradesh has been given 8 months time (2 months for budgetary allocation and 6 months for implementation).
The case will be next considered after Holi vacations.
The directions for CCTV installation were passed by a bench comprising Justices RF Nariman, KM Joseph and Aniruddha Bose in the case Paramvir Singh Saini v Baljit Singh.
"As most of these agencies carry out interrogation in their office(s), CCTVs shall be compulsorily installed in all offices where such interrogation and holding of accused takes place in the same manner as it would in a police station.", the bench had held.
As per the directions, CCTV cameras are to be installed at all entry and exit points; main gate of the police station; all lock-ups; all corridors; lobby/the reception area; all verandas/outhouses, Inspector's room; Sub-Inspector's room; areas outside the lock-up room; station hall; in front of the police station compound; outside (not inside) washrooms/toilets; Duty Officer's room; back part of the police station etc.,
CTV systems that have to be installed must be equipped with night vision and must necessarily consist of audio as well as video footage.
The Court also clarified that victims of custodial torture will have the right to seek the CCTV footage of interrogation by police agencies.
"A person has a right to complain about human rights violations to the National/State Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Court or the Superintendent of Police or any other authority empowered to take cognizance of an offence. It shall further mention that CCTV footage is preserved for a certain minimum time period, which shall not be less than six months, and the victim has a right to have the same secured in the event of violation of his human rights."