If you find that someone has mysteriously withdrawn money from your bank account using an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM), do not expect the close circuit television camera in the ATM to help you identify the culprit.
Most banks do not preserve the footage these CCTVs record for more than a month. This is what activist Mohamed Afzal found out when he filed an application with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) under the Right To Information Act. The RBI told Khan it has not issued guidelines to banks on the minimum period for which CCTV footage should be preserved.
“As a result, citizens are left in a lurch if something goes wrong,” Afzal said.
Afzal filed the application after he saw what had happened to 63-year-old Mira Road resident Saifullah Khan (name changed on request).
Khan found out in April that somebody had used ATMs to withdraw Rs. 3.36 lakh from his bank account over three months. “We wanted the bank to give us the footage captured by close-circuit television cameras in those ATMs so that we could identify the culprit,” Khan’s nephew, Siraj (name changed on request), said. “After dilly-dallying for a month, the manager issued a letter saying the bank preserved the footage only for a month.”
Siraj said the manager told them because there were no clear instructions on preserving footage the bank preserved it as long as its infrastructure supported it. “The lack of guidelines means if a bank does not disclose CCTV footage in cases like Khan’s, then there is nothing a common man can do to challenge it,” Afzal said.
The manager of a nationalised bank, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media, said: “There are no guidelines on how the footage should be stored so every bank takes an individual decision. We preserve the footage on computers until the disk has memory space and on compact discs after that.”
The manager said there was an urgent need for the RBI to regulate this practice. “Most banks avoid taking security measures because of the expenditure involved,” the manager said.