The Supreme Court of India in its order on Paramvir Singh Saini Vs Baljit Singh has brought about a very important provision on bringing accountability at Police Stations by directing the use of CCTVs.
The Order is dated December 2, 2020 and is by a bench consisting of Justices R.F. Nariman, K.M Joseph and Aniruddha Bose) and reiterates an earlier order dated 3/4/2018 in SLP (Crl) No. 2302 of 2017, reported as Shafhi Mohammad v. State of Himachal Pradesh (2018) 5 SCC 311.
The Court has given specific directions that CCTV cameras should be compulsorily installed in all Police Stations, CBI, ED NIA, NCB,DRI, SFIO offices.
It has also specified that the cameras should be installed at entry and exit points, main gate of the police station,, lockups, corridors, lobby/reception area, all verandas/outhouses, Inspector’s room, Sub Inspector’s room, outside the lock up room, station hall, in front of the police station compound, outside, outside washrooms/toilets, duty officer’s room, back part of the police station etc.
It is also directed that the CCTV systems should be equipped with night vision and include audio.
It is also directed that the footage should be retained for not less than 6 months which becomes the new data retention standard for CCTV footages. Companies which were erasing the data after 30 days or 90 days need to take note.
While the intention of the order is well appreciated, there is a need to work out the cost of such installation and the need for continuous maintenance. We often find that CCTVs in Bank ATMs donot function and in many instances the CCTV footage is claimed as non existent due to mal functioning when it is actually erased to suppress evidence.
This is a welcome move as far as preventing human rights violations are concerned and we need to see how it will be implemented.
The issue highlights how protection of one right threatens another right since there could be some privacy concerns arising out of the recommendations. There have been some GDPR decisions in which CCTV recording particularly those facing the public area have been considered a violation of privacy. However this order coming from the highest court of the land will be considered as a precedence in its own.
Similarly the keeping of the records for a minimum period of 6 months will be an adjunct to Sections 67C and 65 of ITA 2000.
It would be interesting to see how this order is implemented.