Supreme Court slams Govts for laxity on CCTV-in-thana plan

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On Tuesday, the Apex Court rebuked the Centre & many states for their lackadaisical approach in implementing its direction to install CCTV cameras in all Police Stations to stop custodial torture & accused them of showing “complete disregard to the fundamental rights of citizens & the SC’s order”.

Brushing aside the Centre’s letter requesting adjournment of hearing to gauge the “ramifications” of the Dec 2 Court order for CCTVs in central probe agencies, a bench of Justices R F Nariman, B R Gavai & Hrishikesh Roy said, “We are not accepting the excuses given in the letter. It gives an impression that you are dragging your feet. Tell us what funds have been allocated for the purpose.”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta requested for time & the bench gave the Centre three weeks to implement the order.

The Supreme Court on Dec 2 had ordered all States & UTs to compulsorily install CCTV cameras with night-vision facility in all police stations with provision for storing recorded data for at least 12 months, & ideally for 18 months, to enable probes into allegations of custodial torture by police. The order was also applicable to the CBI, NIA, ED, NCB, DRI & SFIO.

On Tuesday, most states sought one & a half years time, but the UP Govt wanted 3 years citing its geographical size. The West Bengal Govt wanted 5 years to equip all police stations with CCTVs.

Bihar & Telangana bore the brunt of the bench’s displeasure. “You are playing with our order. We are giving you one last chance. Please tell your secretary concerned to proceed in right earnest or else we will initiate contempt proceedings against him. We are most displeased with the affidavit. It shows complete lack of any regard to citizens’ fundamental rights & to our orders,” the bench told the Bihar Govt.

It told the Telangana Govt that its performance in complying with the court order was dismal when “these are matters of utmost importance concerning rights of the citizens of the country”. It accused the MP government of dragging its feet & told Maharashtra that it appeared disinterested in implementing the order.

Brushing aside the plea of most governments for budgetary allocations, the bench directed them to allocate funds within a month & complete the task in the next four months. However, keeping in mind the size of UP & the administrative exigencies in poll-bound states of Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the bench gave these states time till end of the year to install CCTV cameras in all police stations.

The Justice Nariman-led bench had said on December 2, “In order to ensure that no part of a police station is left uncovered, it is imperative to ensure that CCTV cameras are installed at all entry & exit points, main gate of the police station, all lock-ups, all corridors, lobby/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.”

It said that “CCTV systems must be equipped with night vision & must necessarily consist of audio as well as video footage. Most important of all is the storage of CCTV camera footage which can be done in digital video recorders and/or network video recorders”.

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