The Supreme Court recently struck blow on the police accountability and democratisation of police stations ordering all States and Union Territories (UTs) to install night vision CCTV in police stations across the country.
The judgment was delivered by a Bench of Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman, KM Joseph and Aniruddha Bose in a case relating to CCTV in police stations and audio-video recording of crime scenes and examination of witnesses by police.
The case on CCTV in police stations and other agencies was revived by Bench following an incident involving alleged custodial torture in Punjab.
The top court also directed the Central government to install CCTV cameras at the offices of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), National Investigation Agency (NIA), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) and any other central agency office where interrogation of people is carried out.
“The State and Union Territory Governments should ensure that CCTV cameras are installed in each and every police station functioning in the respective State and/or Union Territory. In addition, the Union of India is also directed to install CCTV cameras and recording equipment in the offices of CBI, NIA, ED, NCB, DRI, SFIO and any other agency which carries out interrogations and has the power of arrest,” the Court held.
State and Union Territory Governments should ensure that CCTV cameras are installed in each and every police station.
The apex court in its judgment also mandated that CCTV systems so installed “must be equipped with night vision and must necessarily consist of audio as well as video footage.”
In areas in which there is either no electricity and/or internet, it shall be the duty of the States/UTs to provide the same as expeditiously as possible using any mode of providing electricity, including solar/wind power, the Court added.
Whenever there is an incident of serious injury or custodial death in a police station, a person can complain about the same to Human Rights Courts which can then summon the CCTV footage for safe-keeping. Such footage shall be made available to the victims in the event of violation of her human rights, the court said.
The responsibility for the working, maintenance and recording of CCTV in police stations shall be that of the SHO of the police station concerned, the Court made it clear in case of installing CCTV in police stations.
Further, in order to ensure that no part of a police station is left uncovered, the Court ordered thatCCTV in police stations should be installed at all entry and exit points, main gate of the police station, all lock-ups, 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, washrooms/ toilets, duty officer’s room, back part of the police station etc.