The Bombay high court on Wednesday gave the state government four weeks to install closed circuit television cameras at all strategic points inside 25 city police stations — the lock-up rooms, interrogation rooms and office cabins of senior inspectors.
A division bench of justice Ranjit More and justice Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi issued the directive after noticing the state had not complied with its earlier assurance to the court to install CCTV cameras in 25 selected police stations in Mumbai on a pilot basis. The measure was ordered to curb custodial violence — Maharashtra recorded the highest number of custodial deaths between 1999 and 2013 and the figure stands at a staggering 333 deaths, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The judges were irked to note that while cameras were installed at some places in these police stations, important areas like lock-ups, interrogation rooms, office cabins of the station in charge had been left out.
The court was hearing a petition filed by BPT Colony resident Leonard Valdaris, seeking a CBI probe into the death of his 25-year-old son, Agnelo, picked up with three others by the Wadala Government Railway Police on the charge of chain snatching. Agnelo allegedly died from torture in custody and an FIR was registered against seven personnel from the Wadala GRP. The HC has transferred the case to CBI.
Acting on the petitions, on August 13, 2014, the court directed the state to install CCTV cameras to cover every corridor and room of every police station across Maharashtra. The court also directed the footage of each of the CCTV cameras be preserved for a year. The state, citing fund shortage, assured the court it would install CCTV cameras in 25 selected police stations on a pilot basis. The HC also noted that uncontroverted figures from the NCRB showed the number of custodial deaths in Maharashtra was alarmingly high and constituted 23.48 % of all custodial deaths in India. The court expressed hope that installing CCTVs would help control torture and reduce custodial deaths.