The Centre and states were in the firing line on Tuesday before the Supreme Court for not complying with a three-month old order to install CCTVs in all interrogation rooms of central investigating agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency and police stations across the country.
The Court accused the Centre of “dragging its feet” and directed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to file a reply in three weeks indicating clear timelines for installation of closed-circuit televisions (CCTVs) in the offices of CBI, NIA, Enforcement Directorate, Narcotics Control Bureau, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Serious Fraud Investigation Office and any other agency having power of arrest and interrogation. The next hearing in the case will be on April 6.
Court-appointed amicus curiae senior advocate Siddhartha Dave prepared a chart indicating unsatisfactory response from states as well with some proposing to achieve compliance of Court’s December 2, 2020 order by end of 2023.
“These are matters of utmost moment concerning the citizenry of the country,” the bench of Justices RF Nariman and BR Gavai said, asking most of the states to complete the process of budgetary allocation and installation of CCTVs by August this year. Relaxations were made for poll-bound states of West Bengal, Assam, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and the largest state of Uttar Pradesh to achieve this task by the year-end.
Bihar got the longest time of one-year to achieve compliance after the Court expressed serious displeasure on the state’s affidavit that neither disclosed a timeline or details of budget allocation. “It shows complete lack of any regard to the citizenry’s fundamental rights or orders of this Court,” the bench remarked. Two other states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan got a slight leeway by getting an additional one-month to the five-month rule owing to its large size. The MP government, which shelved the budget allocation for CCTV project to 2023, was pulled up by the Court for dragging its feet. The bench did not appreciate Jharkhand’s decision to get the task done by 2024. Terming the deadline “unrealistic”, the bench told the state not to “play around” with the Court’s order.
The December 2 order required states and Centre to install high-definition CCTVs with night vision, audio recording and storage facility of a minimum period of 12 months to 18 months. In areas which faced power outages and issues of internet connectivity, the Court directed the respective state governments to provide the same expeditiously.
About CCTVs in police stations, the Court directed installation of one CCTV each at all entry and exit points, main gate of the police station, all lock-ups, all corridors, lobby/ reception area, all outhouses, Inspector’s room, Sub-Inspector’s room, areas outside the lock-up room, station hall, in front of the police station compound, outside (not inside) washrooms/toilets, Duty Officer’s room, and back area of the police station.
The states required to complete the installation of CCTVs in five months are Haryana, Telangana, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Tripura, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Goa, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Nagaland and Odisha. The union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, and Daman and Diu were also directed to comply with the same timeline.
Delhi sought nine months to make existing CCTVs equipped with audio recording and storage facility but the top court gave the National Capital Territory government four months to comply fully with its judgment.
Punjab submitted to the Court that CCTVs were already installed in all police stations in 2018 but the same were not in accordance with the requirements set out by the December 2 order. Andhra too reported partial compliance. As an exception, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh got seven months to complete the installation work.