Bombay HC directs police stations to maintain regular register of CCTVs
Following the Supreme Court’s direction to install closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras across all police stations in the country on December 2, the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay high court (HC) went a step further by asking police stations in the state to maintain a register with details about functioning of the said cameras on a daily basis. The directions are intended to ensure that police stations, that are asked to submit CCTV footages of their premises in alleged custodial harassment cases, do not get away with excuses like CCTVs were not functional on the given day. The bench observed that the register would enable to ascertain the truthfulness of the claims of police regarding non-functional CCTV systems.
On December 2, a division bench of justice Tanaji V Nalawade and justice Mukund G Sewlikar, while hearing a criminal writ petition filed by Wajid Mukhtarmiya Shaikh through advocate Sachin Panhale, was informed that Umarga Police station in Osmanabad district had failed to provide CCTV footage of the police station from April 20. Shaikh had applied for the footage to substantiate his allegations of custodial harassment. Panhale submitted that his client was informed that CCTVs were not functional on the given day, and hence, it raised suspicion against the police station.
On its part, the police filed a reply through additional public prosecutor BV Vardhe and submitted the daily diary maintained by the police station which indicated that the footage of the relevant day was not available as the CCTV system was not working.
After hearing the submissions, the bench expressed its displeasure regarding the lapses and said, “This is not the first instance when the concerned police station has informed that CCTV system was not working. Some specific directions are given by this court at this seat and at the principal seat also to see that CCTV systems are installed in every police station, and it should cover lockup and other portions of police stations.”
Elaborating on the need for CCTV systems in police stations, the bench further noted, “Such a system controls activities such as atrocities against persons who are brought to police station. It is surprising that in many cases submission is made that on that particular day, the CCTV system was not working… This cannot be allowed to happen as the purpose behind installing the CCTV system itself is defeated when such submissions are accepted.”
Thereafter the bench said that an officer should be appointed to oversee working of the system and the recording needs to be seen every day by some officer following which entries about the same should be made in a register. “This court wants to see that the registers are maintained in respect of the CCTV system in the concerned police station to ascertain the truthfulness of the submission that CCTV system was not working on that day,” the bench directed.
The court then directed the district superintendent of police of Osmanabad district to look into the matter personally and make an inquiry into the procedure adopted for maintenance and working of the CCTV system in the police station and sought a report within December 18.
Incidentally, on December 2, the Supreme Court had asked states and Union Territories (UT) to ensure that CCTV cameras are installed in each and every police station functioning in their respective limits and to store the recording for a minimum of one year. Hence, the directions by the bench gain prominence as it goes a step ahead to curb intentional lapses by police stations and also increases their accountability.