BIGG BOSS: POLICE STATION EDITION

CCTV

Introduction 

The Supreme Court, in the case of Shafhi Mohammad v State of Himachal Pradesh [(2018) 5 SCC 311] (“Shafhi Mohammad”), directed the establishment of a Central Oversight Body (“COB”) to implement the use of videography at the crime scene during investigation. This addressed the directions of the Supreme Court in DK Basu v State of West Bengal & Others (2015) 8 SCC 744 to create video footage, a committee to study the CCTV camera footage and publish a report of its observations periodically. The installation of CCTV cameras at police stations and prisons to check the abuse of human rights was also directed. Further, the COB was given the power to issue appropriate directions from time to time so as to ensure that the use of videography becomes a reality. 

In light of these decisions, earlier in 2020, a 3-judge bench of the Supreme Court, in the case of Paramvir Singh Saini v Baljit Singh & Ors (“Paramvir Singh”) SLP(Cr)/3543/2020 ordered the installation of CCTV cameras in interrogation centers due to check police brutality and issued clear guidelines about where and how these should be put up. 

Stance of the Court

The Court held that a victim of brutality during interrogation by policing agencies like the city or state police, CBI, NIA and ED has a right to obtain the CCTV footage. The victim also has the right to approach the State and National Human Rights Commissions, Superintendent of Police or Human Rights Courts in case of any human rights violation. The Court directed the Central Government to file an affidavit on the constitution and working of the Central Oversight Body. The Central Government was also instructed to install CCTV cameras and recording equipment in all interrogation centres of the special police agencies.

The Court reiterated the directives in Shafhi Mohammad, observing that no steps had been taken to implement the directions in Shafhi Mohammed. The right to report a human right violation is a fundamental right granted to people under Article 21 of the Constitution and hence the provision of CCTV recordings has to be made available urgently. 

Roles and responsibilities of the State Level Oversight Committee (“SLOC”) 

The Court defined the duties of the SLOC as follows:

  • Purchase, distribution and installation of CCTVs and its equipment
  • Obtaining the budgetary allocation for the same
  • Continuous monitoring of maintenance and upkeep of CCTVs and its equipment
  • Carrying out inspections and addressing the grievances received from the DLOC 
  • Calling for monthly reports from the District Level OC and immediately address any concerns like faulty equipment.

Roles and responsibilities of the District Level Oversight Committee (“DLOC”)

The DLOC has the obligation to perform the following functions: 

  • Supervision, maintenance and upkeep of CCTVs and its equipment
  • Continuous monitoring of maintenance and upkeep of CCTVs and its equipment
  • To interact with the Station House Officer (“SHO”) as to the functioning and maintenance of CCTVs and its equipment; and
  • To send monthly reports to the SLOC about the functioning of CCTVs and allied equipment.
  • To review footage stored from CCTVs in the various Police Stations to check for any human rights violation that may have occurred but are not reported.

Maintenance and Functioning of CCTV

The Finance Department of the States/Union Territories must allocate adequate funds for the maintenance and functioning of CCTVs. The responsibility shall be that of the SHO of the respective police station. It shall be the duty of the SHO to immediately report to the DLOC in case of any fault with the equipment or malfunctioning of CCTVs. The SHO is also responsible for the maintenance of CCTV data, backup of data, fault rectification, etc. The government of the State and Union Territory should ensure that CCTV cameras are installed in every police station. CCTV systems that have to be installed must be equipped with night vision and must necessarily consist of audio as well as video footage. 

The SLOC and the COB shall give directions to all police stations to prominently display information about the coverage of the concerned premises by CCTV, at the entrance and inside police stations, in English, Hindi and local language. It shall further mention that CCTV footage is preserved for at least six months, and the victim has a right to have the same secured in the event of violation of his human rights. 

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