Representational Image
Representational Image

In a bid to check violation of human rights at police stations across the country, the Supreme Court on Tuesday mulled over a CCTV mechanism "to put the system straight" and said that it will pass orders on the issue.

A bench of Justices R F Nariman, K M Joseph and Aniruddha Bose which reserved its verdict on the issue said that the CCTV footage of the police station needs to be preserved for not less than 45 days and a mechanism must be there to store it.

"We will have to pass orders which will ultimately put the system straight," the bench said.

The top court, while dealing with a matter related to custodial torture, had in July this year had revived a 2017 case in which it had ordered installation of CCTV cameras in all the police stations to check human rights abuses, videography of crime scene and setting up of a Central Oversight Committee and such a panel in every states and Union Territory.

At the outset, senior advocate Siddharth Dave, appointed as amicus curiae in the matter to assist the court, told the bench that several states have filed affidavits highlighting compliance of top court's order passed on April 3, 2018 in the 2017 case.

He said that Madhya Pradesh have installed 859 cameras in 1117 police stations, Mizoram has installed 147 CCTVs in 40 police stations, Manipur has installed 87 CCTV cameras while Sikkim has installed two CCTV cameras in prisons and not in police stations.

The bench said that it needs additional affidavit from the states on total number of police stations in each district and have to see that the CCTVs installed are functioning and responsibility should be fixed.
Dave replied that a Station House Officer (SHO) should be made responsible for functioning of the CCTV cameras.

Attorney General K K Venugopal, who assistance was sought by the court in the matter, said that State governments should ensure electricity and internet is made available to these police stations situated in rural areas for smooth working of CCTVs and a questionnaire also needs to be circulated for getting all relevant information.

The bench said, "We are on police atrocities and what is more important is that the oversight committee should be able to take a look at these CCTV footages and take immediate action".

Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for West Bengal suggested that the oversight committee can comprise of police commissioner, district magistrate and superintendent of police.

He submitted that all the police stations in the state are equipped with CCTVs and state government will form an oversight committee after discussion with the Chief Minister.

Additional Advocate General of Uttar Pradesh, Vinod Diwakar also said that state has ensured CCTV cameras installation in all the police stations.

The bench said it is good that some states have complied with the directions but the court is not on individual matter and is looking at holistically.

Advocate Yogesh Kanna, appearing for Tamil Nadu said that the state has a policy of putting up cameras in all important stations to which the bench said, "The most unimportant places will become the most important as the accused will be thrashed there".

Venugopal suggested that a helpline to the oversight committee needs to be put in place so that any atrocities being committed can be brought to light immediately.

The bench said it will pass orders in a day or two and asked Dave to submit a written note of suggestions by November 27.

On July 16, the top court had sought response from Centre and states on the issue of larger question of audio-video recordings of section 161 statements of the accused before the police as well as the larger question as to the installation of CCTV cameras in police stations generally.

It had noted the April 3, 2018 order in which it had said that in every State an oversight mechanism be created whereby an independent committee can study the CCTV camera footages and periodically publish report of its observations.

On August 5, the top court had said it wish to know the exact position as to CCTV cameras in Police Stations as well as the constitution of Oversight Committees in accordance with our order dated April 3, 2018 in the 2017 case.

It had issued notice to Chief Secretary of each state and Union Territory on questions - what exactly is the position with respect to CCTV cameras fitted in each and every Police Station in the State or Union Territory and what is the position qua constitution of Oversight Committees in accordance with our order dated April 3, 2018.

The top court had said that it expects that the Chief Secretary of the states and Union Territories to take this matter seriously and in right earnest since it involves the fundamental rights of the citizen under Article 21 of the constitution of India.

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