The case of Paramvir Singh v. Baljit Singh is a landmark case where the Supreme Court gave directions to install CCTV Cameras in all the Police Stations across India. The court in this case, with a view to curb the menace of custodial violence, laid down several guidelines including the direction regarding the mandatory installation of CCTV cameras and its… Read More »

The case of Paramvir Singh v. Baljit Singh is a landmark case where the Supreme Court gave directions to install CCTV Cameras in all the Police Stations across India. The court in this case, with a view to curb the menace of custodial violence, laid down several guidelines including the direction regarding the mandatory installation of CCTV cameras and its significance. The court in this case dealt with the non-adherence by the states of the guidelines laid down in the earlier cases relating...

The case of Paramvir Singh v. Baljit Singh is a landmark case where the Supreme Court gave directions to install CCTV Cameras in all the Police Stations across India. The court in this case, with a view to curb the menace of custodial violence, laid down several guidelines including the direction regarding the mandatory installation of CCTV cameras and its significance. The court in this case dealt with the non-adherence by the states of the guidelines laid down in the earlier cases relating to the compulsory installation of CCTV cameras.

Introduction

In the case of Paramvir Singh v. Baljit Singh, the court based its decision on the ideological premise of Article 21 of the Constitution of India, and how there is a pressing need for the protection of the right of the accused while he is in police custody. The verdict emphasizes human rights and the abolition of incarcerated torture, which is a violation of the Right to Life in itself. By enunciating these rules and giving teeth to Human Rights Commissions with express direction to act on any complaint against police officials and give the aggrieved a proper remedy, the Supreme Court has acted quickly to nip the problem of state excesses in the bud.

Title of the Case: Paramvir Singh v. Baljit Singh

Citation: (2020) 3 SCC (Cri) 150

Court: Supreme Court of India

Case Area: Mandatory installation of CCTV cameras in Police stations all over India

Bench: Justice KM Joseph, Justice RF Nariman, and Justice Aniruddha Bose

Factual Background

In this case, a Special Leave Petition was filed to investigate the status of CCTV camera installation in police stations, as well as compliance with the dictates of Section 161(3) of the CrPC, which states that any statement made to the police under this section may also be recorded by audio-visual electronic means.

Now, before moving further it’s important to also understand the factual background in which such SLP arose.

In the year 2015, the Apex Court issued a suggestive direction in DK Basu v. State of West Bengal[1] to install CCTV cameras in all prisons across the country to check inmate discipline and prevent violations of their human rights. The Court also observed in this case that state governments should consider installing such CCTV cameras in police stations in order to protect detainees from violence. However, it was not made necessary. The court left the final decision on camera installation to the respective state governments. However, later, in 2018, by the judgment in the case of Shafhi Mohammad v. State of Himachal Pradesh[2], the court took up the issue of CCTV cameras with a more proactive approach.

The Supreme Court in this case ordered the establishment of a Central Oversight Body (COB) which would operate under the Ministry of Home Affairs to carry out the action plan on the use of videography at crime scenes during investigations. The Supreme Court believed it was necessary to direct that an Oversight Mechanism be established in each state, whereby an Independent Committee can examine CCTV camera footage and publish its findings in the form of a report on a regular basis. The COB was given the task of identifying locations (presumably police stations) where cameras should be installed and issuing suitable instructions to guarantee that videography is implemented in a progressive way.

Issues

Although there are no adversarial issues, in this case, the court took cognizance of the matter to examine the following issues:

  • The status of installation of the CCTV cameras in the police states across different states.
  • The status on the issue of COB i.e. Central Oversight Body, and whether the guidelines laid down in the Shafi Mohammad Case in that respect have been followed.

Contentions

There are no adversarial contentions in this case. The court in this case was dealing with the peculiar issue of examining the status of the installation of CCTV cameras and the issue of the constitution of COB.

Judgment Analysis

The Supreme Court, upon perusal of the Compliance Affidavits and action, taken reports filed by the states in pursuance of the judgment of Shafhi Mohammad, found the same to be unsatisfactory. Only a total of 14 states and union territories had filed the affidavits and those were too, incomplete and didn’t carry proper details as to the exact status of CCTV installations in the police stations. Expressing its dissatisfaction with the then-current status, the court said that nothing substantial has been done by the states for over 2.5 years [i.e. after 03.04.2018, the date when the Shafhi Mohammad case was passed], and passed the following guidelines:

1. CCTV Cameras to be installed at every part of the police station: Details as to the quality, recording capacity, etc

Except for the lavatories, the court ordered that all police stations install CCTV cameras in every portion of the premises. Even at the entry and exit, a CCTV camera is required. These CCTV cameras must have excellent audio and video quality, as well as night vision. For a clear film to be recorded, sufficient internet facilities must be available. If the equipment does not have an 18-month storage capacity, the states should build the necessary facilities to ensure that it does.

The storage of CCTV camera footage, which can be done in digital video recorders and/or network video recorders, the court observed is the most significant of all. CCTV cameras must then be equipped with recording technologies that allow the data saved on them to be kept for up to 18 months. If the recording equipment currently available on the market does not have the capacity to keep the recording for 18 months but only for a shorter period, it will be mandatory for all States, Union Territories, and the Central Government to purchase one that allows storage for the maximum period possible, but not less than one year.

2. CCTV cameras in Central agencies as well

The Union of India is also required to install CCTV cameras and recording equipment in the offices of the following organizations: The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); National Security Agency (NIA); Enforcement Directorate (ED); Bureau of Narcotics Control (NCB); Revenue Intelligence Department (DRI); Office of Serious Fraud Investigations (SFIO); Any other agency with the authority to conduct interrogations and make arrests.

3. Oversight Committee to be constituted at two levels

The court observed that so far as the constitution of Oversight Committees is concerned, this should be done at the State and District levels. The State Level Oversight Committee (hereinafter referred to as the “SLOC”) must consist of:

  • The Secretary/Additional Secretary, Home Department;
  • Secretary/Additional Secretary, Finance Department;
  • The Director-General/Inspector General of Police; and
  • The Chairperson/member of the State Women’s Commission.

District Level Oversight Committee (hereinafter referred to as “DLOC”) is concerned, this should comprise of:

  • The Divisional Commissioner/ Commissioner of Divisions/ Regional Commissioner/ Revenue Commissioner Division of the District (by whatever name called);
  • The District Magistrate of the District;
  • A superintendent of Police of that District; and
  • A mayor of a municipality within the District/ a Head of the Zilla Panchayat in rural areas.

4. Functions of SLOC and DLOC

It shall be the duty of the SLOC to see that the directions passed by this Court are carried out. Amongst others, the duties shall consist of:

  • Purchase, distribution, and installation of CCTVs and their equipment;
  • Obtaining the budgetary allocation for the same;
  • Continuous monitoring of maintenance and upkeep of CCTVs and their equipment;
  • Carrying out inspections and addressing the grievances received from the DLOC; and
  • To call for monthly reports from the DLOC and immediately address any concerns like faulty equipment.

Likewise, the DLOC shall have the following obligations:

  • Supervision, maintenance, and upkeep of CCTVs and their equipment;
  • Continuous monitoring of maintenance and upkeep of CCTVs and their equipment;
  • To interact with the Station House Officer (hereinafter referred to as the “SHO”) as to the functioning and maintenance of CCTVs and their equipment; and
  • To send monthly reports to the SLOC about the functioning of CCTVs and allied equipment.
  • To review footage stored from CCTVs in the various Police Stations to check for any human rights violations that may have occurred but are not reported.

5. Duties of SHO [i.e. Station House Officer] and DGP [i.e. Director General of Police]

The court noted that the SHO of the particular police station is in charge of the operation, maintenance, and recording of CCTV cameras. The SHO is responsible and obligated to promptly notify the DLOC if there is a problem with the equipment or if the CCTVs are malfunctioning. If the CCTVs at a police station are not operational, the SHO in charge must notify the DLOC of any arrests or interrogations made in that station during the specified time period and submit the record to the DLOC.

Each State and Union Territory’s Director-General/Inspector General of Police should issue instructions to the person in charge of a Police Station to entrust the SHO of the concerned Police Station with the task of assessing the working condition of the CCTV cameras installed in the police station and taking corrective action to restore the functioning of all non-functional CCTV cameras. The SHO should be in charge of CCTV data maintenance, backup, and problem resolution, among other things.

6. Provision of Complaint to Human Rights Courts

When there is information of excessive force being used at police stations, resulting in significant injury and/or death in custody, the court observed that it is crucial that people have the right to complain. Such complaints may be made not only to the State Human Rights Commission, which must then use its powers under Sections 17 and 18 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, to resolve such complaints but also to Human Rights Courts, which must be established in each District of each State/Union Territory under Section 30 of the same Act, in which case CCTV footages can be summoned.

The court in this case observed that since the guidelines issues are in furtherance of the fundamental rights enshrined under Part III, more specifically, Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, and the Executive/Administrative/Police authorities were required to implement this order both in letter and in spirit as soon as possible. The court also directed that the affidavits shall be filed by the Principal Secretaries/Cabinet Secretaries/Home Secretaries of each State/Union Territory, providing this Court with a “firm action plan and exact timelines” for complying Order in the case.


References

[1] (2015) 8 SCC 744

[2] (2018) 5 SCC 311


Updated On 2022-06-01T08:01:25+05:30
Paras Ahuja

Paras Ahuja

Paras Ahuja is a law graduate from National Law University, Jodhpur (2022). She has graduated with Constitutional Law Honours and takes a specific interest in gender laws and labour laws.

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