Cameras in classes not a violation of privacy, says Delhi govt
The Delhi government has said that the decision to install CCTV cameras became necessary in light of the increasing incidents of violence, sexual abuse and bullying in schools.
The installation of CCTV cameras in “a public space like classroom” is not a violation of the privacy rights of the students and teachers, the Delhi government told the Delhi high court on Friday while opposing two pleas challenging the installation of such cameras in state-run schools and live-streaming their feed to parents.
The state, in an affidavit filed on November 30, said that even though the right to privacy has been held as a fundamental right in a public space, it would vary from place to place. “...a reasonable expectation of privacy, though not surrendered in a public place, would vary from an intimate zone to a public space like that of a classroom,” the Delhi government said.
The response comes on pleas by the Delhi Parents’ Association and Daniel George, who claims to be actively involved in the field of education awareness and promoting children’s education. The association and George, through counsel Jai Dehadrai, have sought setting aside of the Delhi government’s notification to install CCTVs in state-run schools.
In 2019, the high court had refused to stay the notification and called for the state government’s reply. However, the matter was not heard during the pandemic, when only extremely urgent matters were being heard.
The matter came up for hearing on Friday when the court granted time to the petitioner’s counsel to file his rejoinder and posted the matter for hearing on January 13.
During the proceedings, advocate Gautam Narayan, appearing for the state, told the court that the petitioners’ contention is frivolous as none of the students or the parents have complained about any mis-happening in the three years that the CCTVs have been installed.
In its affidavit before chief justice Satish Chandra Sharma and justice Subramonium Prasad, the Delhi government has said that the decision to install CCTV cameras became necessary in light of the increasing incidents of violence, sexual abuse, bullying in the schools in 2017 and the inability of the management ensure safety of the students.
“The horrific spate of incidents had occasioned the education departments throughout the nation to rethink the standards for safety and security in the schools and issue fresh guidelines for protection and security of the students of the school. In the light of the incidents in September, 2017, a time bound plan for rollout of the CCTV installation in classrooms was set down though the plan for installation had been in the works since 2015. The increasing threats had occasioned that swift action was taken for ensuring safety of the students,” the document read.
The state said that the right of an individual to their privacy, even if it extends to the public sphere, would always be subject to the legitimate state interest, adding that every fundamental right comes with reasonable restrictions.
“It is submitted that in balancing the interest of the State to ensure safety and protection of the students along with the right of privacy in a classroom, it is to be borne in mind the extent to which the expectation of privacy would be reasonable in a public classroom,” the affidavit said.
It added that the doctrine of proportionality has been propounded to ensure that any restriction imposed by the State on the right to privacy does not venture into the realm of excessiveness and irrationality.
Seeking dismissal of the petitions, the government had said that the Supreme Court had rejected a similar petition in July 2019, even as the current petitioner is trying to portray in the Delhi high court that the apex court was dealing only with the aspect of right to privacy of the female students.