SC says Centre dragging feet on CCTVs in Central agencies

3/2/2021

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday pulled up Centre for dragging its feet by seeking more time for installing CCTV cameras in the offices of Central probe agencies like the CBI, NIA, ED and others.

On December 2, the top court had directed the Centre to install CCTV cameras and recording equipment at the offices of investigating agencies -- NIA, CBI, ED, DRI, etc. -- which have the power of arrest and to carry out interrogations.

On Tuesday, the matter came up for hearing regarding the compliance of the order. The Centre, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, sought adjournment in the matter. Expressing its displeasure, a bench headed by Justice R.F. Nariman told the Centre's counsel that it is setting an impression that the Centre is dragging its feet in the matter. Mehta replied that adjournment was sought, as the matter may have ramifications.

The bench replied it is not concerned about ramifications. "This concerns the right of citizens. We are not accepting the excuses", said the bench. The top court also queried Mehta on the aspect of allocation of funds for installation of CCTVs in Central probe agencies.

Mehta urged the bench to ignore the note seeking adjournment and sought some time to file an affidavit in the matter. The top court gave three weeks to the Centre to file an affidavit citing financial outlay for allocation of CCTV cameras and timeline for installation.

The bench also examined the chart submitted by amicus curiae senior advocate Sidharth Dave in connection with the timeline sought by various state governments following court's order.

The top court has granted 5 months to the state governments to install CCTV in police stations.

For poll bound states -- West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Puducherry -- the top court directed the implementation of CCTVs in police stations till December end this year. The bench gave 9 months for Uttar Pradesh and 8 months for Madhya Pradesh to comply with its order on installation of CCTV cameras. The top court has scheduled the matter for further hearing after Holi vacation.

The top court had noted that whenever there is information of force being used at police stations resulting in serious injury and/or custodial deaths, it is necessary that persons be free to complain for a redressal of the same.

"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 top court had said.

It also emphasized that 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 top court said most important of all is the storage of CCTV camera footage which can be done in digital video recorders and/or network video recorders.

"CCTV cameras must then be installed with such recording systems so that the data that is stored therein shall be preserved for a period of 18 months", added the court.

Source: IANS

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