SC’s Landmark Order On CCTVs Welcomed

The Human Rights Forum (HRF) welcomes the December 2 order of the Supreme Court directing that the Centre, States and Union Territories install closed-circuit television (CCTVs) with night vision cameras and audio recording in every police station. The SC specified that these cameras must cover “interrogation rooms, entry and exits, lock-ups, corridors, lobbies, reception area, rooms of the Sub-Inspector and Inspector, duty officer’s room, in front of the police station compound, back part of the police station and outside washrooms.”

The SC also directed the Central government to install CCTV cameras and recording equipment in offices of Central agencies including the Central Bureau of Investigation, the National Investigation Agency, Narcotics Control Bureau, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Serious Fraud Investigation Office, the Enforcement Directorate and all agencies endowed with the power to detain, arrest and interrogate. The court called for the video and audio recordings to be retained for 18 months for evidence, if needed.

This is a far-reaching and landmark order that, if implemented properly, will go some way towards reducing custodial violence and human rights abuses and ensuring greater police accountability. Compliance is the key. HRF calls upon the AP and Telangana governments to fully abide by the letter and spirit of the SC order and implement it.

The SC also ordered constitution of oversight committees at the State and district levels to supervise and monitor the installation and functioning of cameras and charged them with the responsibility of reviewing footage. Importantly, members of the district committee will not only be bureaucrats but will also consist of an elected representative and the State committee will also have a member from the Women’s Commission.

As has since been pointed out by several experts, the SC could have gone farther in calling for a 24-hour real time viewing and monitoring of the CCTVs at multiple centers, including the local magistrate’s office, so as to ensure that there is no editing, tampering, messing up or manipulation of any other kind of the footage. In other words, not just reviewing footage later, but the possibility of continuous viewing. Even so, this order is a significant step forward.

Custodial violence and abuse of police power is a matter of serious concern. Though the law criminalises torture, custodial violence enjoys unprecedented license and interrogation methods continue to be brutal and inhuman. It is common knowledge that police personnel exhibit a routine disregard for regulations and procedures, inflict terrible violence on helpless suspects and often subject them to degrading treatment. A pervasive regime of impunity is clearly the single most important factor for institutionalising widespread use of custodial torture. We are hopeful that if the SC’s December 3 order is diligently implemented, matters will improve.

HRF has been calling on successive governments to seriously address the issue of custodial torture by law enforcement personnel and to ensure adherence to Constitutional values and lawful procedures. We also urge both governments to constitute State Security Commissions and to expedite setting up of the Police Complaints Authority at both the State-level and in every district and for them to be operationalised in a substantive and meaningful manner.

VS Krishna 
(HRF Coordination Committee member
TS & AP)

S. Jeevan Kumar
(HRF Coordination Committee member
TS & AP)


Related Posts

Scroll to Top