The Delhi High Court has said that closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras installed at police stations across the State should also have audio recording facility in compliance with a 2020 Supreme Court directive, and asked why it had not been implemented at a local police station.
The court of Justice Anu Malhotra on May 27 observed that in view of the Supreme Court verdict in the Paramvir Singh Saini Vs. Baljit Singh & Others, the CCTV systems had to be equipped with night vision and “must necessarily consist of audio as well as video footage”.
Seeking an explanation on why the audio footage system had not been installed so far at the Nabi Karim Police Station, the court ordered that compliance in terms of the Supreme Court’s directions be placed on record without default by the State for the next date of hearing, which is scheduled for July 27.
The court also directed the submission of a status report with respect to a petition filed by Mohammed Arshad Ahmad through his lawyer M. Sufian Siddiqui, who had also raised the issue of CCTV cameras.
The petitioner sought a direction to the Station House Officer (SHO) of Nabi Karim Police Station to comply with the Delhi High Court’s judgment in August 2020 by providing adequate police protection to him in the discharge of his official and religious duties as an imam of a mosque located in Paharganj.
He has also prayed for a directive to the SHO to secure/preserve the footage, both audio and video, of cameras installed in the police station, especially inside the SHO’s room, and place it on record before the court related to an incident on May 1 afternoon, in accordance with the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Paramvir Singh Saini case.
The petitioner requested legal action against Mohammed Nasir and his associate, Parvez Noor, for allegedly threatening him in the SHO’s presence.
The respondents contended that there was only a heated exchange between the two parties and that the SHO had called them to the police station for maintenance of peace and harmony between them on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr.
On behalf of the State, it was submitted that the video footage had been preserved. However, the audio footage of that day was not available. Taking note of the submissions, the court sought an explanation in this regard.
In its 2020 judgment, the Supreme Court had directed States and Union Territories to ensure that CCTV systems were installed at all police stations. “...it is imperative to ensure that CCTV cameras are installed at all entry and exit points; main gate of the police station; all lock-ups; all corridors; lobby/the 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,” the apex court had said.
The Supreme Court had said CCTV cameras, linked to a data storage system, “must be equipped with night vision and must necessarily consist of audio as well as video footage”. The Centre was also told to install cameras and recording equipment in all the offices of all the probe agencies that had the power of arrest.
“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. Such complaints may not only be made to the State Human Rights Commission...but also to Human Rights Courts...the Commission/Court can then immediately summon CCTV camera footage in relation to the incident for its safe keeping, which may then be made available to an investigation agency in order to further process the complaint made to it,” the court had said.
In July 2021, following the court’s directive, the Union Home Ministry had issued an advisory to the States and Union Territories to install CCTV cameras at all police stations. According to the Bureau of Police Research and Development’s ‘Data on Police Organisations-2020’ report, more than 4.60 lakh cameras were available with the police in States and Union Territories as on January 1, 2020
According to 2020 data maintained by the National Crime Records Bureau, 76 persons (43 not in remand and 33 in remand) had died in police custody/lock-up across the country owing to various reasons.