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Case Analysis: Paramvir Singh Saini v. Baljit Singh & Ors

Citation – (2020) 3 SCC (Cri) 150

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

Bench – J. R.F. Nariman, K.M. Joseph. Aniruddha Bose

Date – 2 December 2020

BACKGROUND

Various courts have issued orders requiring police stations to install CCTV cameras on their campuses in order to strengthen human rights. Several people have died in police custody after being subjected to custodial brutality. In the current instance, the Supreme Court has taken notice of the situation and has given numerous directives to various agencies, instructing them to take proper action as needed.

FACTS

A special leave petition was filed to determine whether or not police stations had installed CCTV cameras. Following that, the Supreme Court directed states and Union Territories to investigate the existing situation. This instruction is also extended to examine the functioning of the Central Oversight Body (COB). To their dismay, the information presented to the SC omitted fundamental information such as the number of operating cameras in police stations, the overall number of cameras deployed, the locations where they were located, and how they were working, among several other things. The majority of states and UTs have not applied for Central Oversight Body status (COB). It’s debatable if they’re made of or not. The court lamented the sorry state of affairs and chastised the states and UTs. Thereafter, the following directions were issued.

ISSUES

  1. How far along is the installation of CCTV cameras at police stations?
  2. What is the status of the Central Oversight Body’s (COB) composition?
  3. Is the state abiding by the CrPC’s Section 161(3) proviso?[1]

JUDGEMENT

  • Constitute Oversight Body at two-level– To begin, at the state level, the State Level Oversight Body (SLOB) will be in charge of purchasing, distributing, and installing CCTV cameras in their respective state institutions. Not only that, but their responsibilities also include budgeting, monitoring and maintaining existing cameras; addressing DLOC issues, and seeking monthly reports from DLOC. The composition of SLOB has also been determined by the court. Second, the District Level Oversight Body (DLOB) will be in charge of frequent monitoring, maintenance, and assessment of camera video at the district level. They will create monthly reports on the subject, which will be forwarded to SLOB.
  • CCTV Cameras to be installed at every part of the police station– Except for the lavatories, all police stations are required to install CCTV cameras in every part of the premises. Even at the entrance and exit, there must be a CCTV camera. These CCTV cameras must perform well in terms of audio and video, and they must also have night vision. Sufficient internet facilities must be accessible so that clear film can be recorded. The equipment should have an 18-month storage capacity, and if it does not, the states should make the appropriate facilities to ensure the same.
  • Custodial death and redressal– If a victim is subjected to custodial torture or death, the victim has the right to file a complaint with the state human rights commission, which is established under sections 17 and 18 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993,[2] as well as Human Rights Courts, which are established under section 30,[3] of the same act. A thorough investigation can be carried out with the help of CCTV cameras and records.
  • All institutions have the power to arrest covered– Institutions working under the Union of India having the power to arrest a person for investigation, interrogation etc., will also come under the ambit of these directions. These institutions will include- the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), National Investigation Agency (NIA), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), and Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO).
  • Responsibility of SHO– Each SHO will be responsible for the operation and recording of CCTV cameras. The SHO would also be in charge of ensuring that the CCTV data was not tampered with. Any faulty CCTV must be reported to the DLOC promptly by the SHO.
  • Display posters informing the general public– The content on the poster should tell the public that the institution is under CCTV monitoring and that the recordings will be accessible for 18 months. This poster must be written in Hindi, English, and a local dialect. Furthermore, for anybody who comes to the premises to file a complaint about a breach of human rights during custodial interrogation, then that complaint must be registered.

PROVISIONS APPLIED

Section 161 (3) of CrPC – States that a police officer may reduce any statement made to him in the course of an examination into writing. The Court raised the issue of whether any comments made by anyone in police custody are free of compulsion, and whether all police stations should be equipped with CCTV cameras.

Sections 17 and 18 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 – A person in detention who has been exposed to abuse or torture can seek reparation from the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC). In conjunction with its given powers under Sections 17 and 18 of the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993, the SHRC can function in this manner. If someone accuses a police officer or an official from one of the above-mentioned investigating organizations, the complainant is entitled to a copy of the CCTV footage from the location where the alleged infringement occurred. Such complaints can be handled by SHRCs in line with the legislation. A directive was also issued to establish more human rights courts in districts.

CASE LAWS REFERRED

The court considers the directive issued in D.K. Basu vs State of West Bengal &ors.,[4] which stated that it is the responsibility of every state to appoint an independent committee to regulate and study the operation of CCTV cameras and to monitor the footage captured by such cameras and that the committee is required to submit a report on such surveillance on a regular basis.

The Supreme Court of India, in Shafi Mohammad v. The State of Himachal Pradesh,[5] ordered that CCTV cameras be installed at police stations to monitor human rights breaches.

ANALYSIS

Even in the most eloquent terms, the verdict is indefensible. It was a sure-fire way to stop fraudulent and fabricated charges, as well as malicious prosecutions, and it was a veritable bulwark against a government that isn’t afraid to exploit the state’s power. The Supreme Court stood firm, refusing to accept any thin reasons involving police machinery, methods of operation, interrogation techniques, and purposeful suppression of liberty, all of which were accompanied by significant human rights breaches.

Article 21 i.e.,[6] Right to life and personal liberty includes various human rights and the abolition of custodial brutality. This judgement gives immense priority to the fundamental right to life. This Supreme Court decision indirectly recognizes this fact and corrects the flaws in the most draconian legislation, which are legitimately in the interests of national security. The ruling reflects natural justice principles by granting the victim the right to a copy of the video footage in which he was subjected to apparent force. The verdict establishes an unshakeable foundation for human rights and virtues, and it is a significant document in the recovery of these rights. And it’s critical for citizens to know that the guardian is vigilant and diligent, unflappable and unfazed.

CONCLUSION

The ruling came at the perfect moment, and the court deserves praise for being so thorough in its investigation. The court’s regulations must be followed in a timely manner, and the value of human rights must be recognized. This ruling, along with a number of others, serve as a guide for ensuring that everyone is treated fairly. The ruling is also an excellent example of officials who have been entrusted with specific obligations being held accountable. Overall, the decision is commendable.

Author(s) Name: Anchal Kanthed (Nirma University, Ahmedabad)

References:

[1] The Code of Criminal Procedure Act, 1973, § 161(3), No. 2, Acts of Parliament, 1973 (India).

[2] The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, § 17 & 18, No. 10, Acts of Parliament, 1994 (India).

[3] The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, § 30, No. 10, Acts of Parliament, 1994 (India).

[4] D.K. Basu vs State of West Bengal &ors., (2015) 8 SCC 744.

[5]Shafi Mohammad v. The State of Himachal Pradesh, (2018) 5 SCC 311.

[6]INDIA CONST., art. 21.