The union ministry of home affairs (MHA) has issued guidelines to all states and union territories (UTs) for the installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in all police stations.
Last month, in a written reply in the Lok Sabha, Nityanand Rai, the minister of state for home affairs mentioned about the Supreme Court (SC) order dated 2 December 2020, which gave detailed directions to states and UTs and the Union government for installing CCTV cameras in all police stations and offices of central investigation agencies.
The SC order directed States and UTs to install cameras with night-vision facility at all police stations with provision for storing data for at least 12 months to enable speedy probes into complaints of custodial torture and human rights violations.
Mr Rai said that the apex court in its last hearing held on 6th April, had directed for the allocation of budget to the central agencies within one month from the date of order and for implementation of complete order within a period of six months from the date of allocation of budgets.
Mr Rai added that accordingly on 13 April 2021, the central investigation agencies requested for the allocation of budget and installation of CCTV cameras in their offices within the time-frame given by the apex court.
States and the UTs have already been impleaded in the case for filing status report on the installation of CCTV cameras in police stations, directly before the Supreme Court (SC), Mr Rai informed the lower house.
The SC order was specifically aimed at monitoring human rights violations during custodial interrogations and to observe the overall workings of a police station in terms of interaction with citizens.
The minister also clarified that since law and order is a state subject, the information regarding the number of police stations having CCTVs is not maintained at the level of Union government but added that "An advisory dated 8th July this year has been issued to state and UT governments for installation of CCTV cameras in all police stations”
"Although 'police' and 'public order' are state subjects under the 7th Schedule to the Constitution of India, financial assistance for modernisation of state police forces is provided under the scheme of 'assistance to states for modernisation of police'. Under this scheme, states have been given the flexibility to formulate state action plan (SAPs) as per their strategic priorities and requirements,” the minister stated.
Accordingly, after the MHA advisory, several states and UTs have floated tenders and kick-started the process to install CCTVs at all police stations.
The Assam police has floated a tender for the “design, supply, installation, commissioning and support of CCTV system with all accessories as per tender specifications in all police stations of Assam”. Almost 6,000 CCTV cameras will be installed at various points in a police station including male and female lock-ups.
Puducherry too has called for tenders to install cameras at all police stations across the UT and the bidders for installing the cameras will be finalised in a few weeks. Puducherry plans to have cameras at all police stations by end of 2021.
Around 600 cameras will be procured for installation in the police stations and control rooms in Puducherry using the UT’s own funds amounting to Rs 2 crore. The cameras will be installed at the entry and exit points, corridors, male/female lock-up room, interrogation room, rear side, outside wash rooms and toilets and rooms of the station house officer.
Depending on the size, topography and the number of rooms the cameras will be installed. Every police station will have six to nine cameras which will be equipped with night vision and audio-cum-video footage.
The Telangana government will also be bringing all 774 police stations across all districts in the State under CCTV surveillance.
Legal experts have lauded the SC judgement while highlighting how the treatment citizens get from local stations is the true indicator of the quality of policing. By introducing a slew of measures, it can be ensured that local stations adhere to modern police practices.
They also pointed out that CCTV cameras would help create confidence among the people and promote required professionalism in the police force. CCTV cameras shall play a vital role but functioning of the CCTV cameras should not be merely be limited to one time installation. Those units should function round the clock and even have night vision devices fitted or a mechanism where activities during night too should get recorded.
The directions were issued in a habeas corpus matter from a Panchkula resident who had alleged that his son was illegally picked up by the police and kept in detention for almost four days even as he was a minor. During the hearing, it had come to light that the police station in question, Sector-14 in Panchkula, had CCTVs but not the police post under this police station. It had also come before court that when court-appointed warrant officer visited the police, the minor boy was found in detention and the warrant officer was not provided the DDR entry of boy’s arrest, which, police claimed, that was made on the day, the warrant officer visited the police station.
The court was shocked that the Sector 16 police post was not equipped with CCTV cameras, despite an affidavit given in a petition about 2 to 3 years ago, that all police stations/CIA staff in the state had been equipped with the CCTV cameras.
“Obviously this court not having issued a specific direction that even police posts be so equipped, was taken unnecessary advantage of by the officers of the state, to not install such cameras at police posts, which are equally important as regards determining as to whether somebody had been illegally detained in a police post or not, with that issue ‘hitting’ at the very root of a persons’ right to liberty as enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” the HC observed.