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THE PIVOTAL ROLE OF CCTV SURVEILLANCE IN LEGAL MACHINERY

INTRODUCTION

CCTV (Closed-circuit television) surveillance has gained a crucial place in the legal machinery. It bears silent witness to every action of the people who are being monitored by the cameras. It is used widely across India and the globe. The application of CCTV surveillance is essentially for precluding and detecting crime. They also play a decisive role in the identification of the criminal. Technology has truly revolutionised every aspect of society. One such instance is the use of CCTV cameras in legal machinery. However, there have also been certain concerns regarding the usage of CCTV cameras. One of them pertains to the privacy of the individuals being monitored by video surveillance. The impact of CCTV surveillance on crime cannot be ignored. Along with bringing in solutions, some questions have also been brought in with the use of CCTV surveillance. One of the most prominent ones is how the use of CCTV surveillance impacted crime has.

ROLE IN CRIME DETECTION AND DETERRENCE

Undoubtedly, CCTV surveillance functions as a crime deterrent. A consistent decrease in crimes has been observed in certain regions post CCTV installations. There has also been a massive increase in the recovery of stolen property.[1] The entire sequence of events that happened during a crime has been captured in CCTVs. Another advantage that is provided by the installation is that the cameras capture considerable evidence, for instance, the registration number of the vehicle the criminal used while committing the crime.[2] CCTVs may function as a crime deterrent as their presence poses a risk to the criminal by capturing their act which may abstain them from committing the crime even if the offence happens, the help provided by the CCTVs in identifying the criminal and detecting the crime is substantial. CCTV is a kind of situational crime prevention that enhances levels of formal surveillance within a target region.[3] If CCTVs are being actively monitored, concerning incidents can be detected in real-time, allowing police officials to reach the site and prevent the situation from escalating into something more serious.[4]Formal surveillance is delivered by authorities like police, store detectives and security guards, the prime function being to provide a deterrent threat to potential offenders.[5]Several variables are at play while determining the correlation between CCTV surveillance and change in crime rates unquestionably, there are certain pre-requisites to ensure that CCTV surveillance functions as an effective crime deterrent namely functional camera systems, active monitoring, the appropriate positioning of the Cameras and awareness among the public about the installation and subsequent use of the CCTVs.

ADMISSIBILITY AS E-EVIDENCE

Electronic records are included under the term ‘evidence’.[6] Section 65(b) of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 pertains to the admissibility of electronic evidence. It treats information contained in an electronic record, which could be printed, stored, recorded, or copied in optical or magnetic media produced by a computer as a document.[7]The computer output is also subjected to requisite conditions which have been mentioned in the section. The Supreme Court, in one of its judgments, held CCTV to be a strong piece of evidence for establishing the facts of a case. The court also held that the omission to produce the CCTV evidence raises serious doubts about the prosecution case which was in consideration. This emphasises the significance of CCTV footage as evidence in legal proceedings.[8]The Supreme Court has also taken a favourable stand toward the installation of CCTVs in police stations and prisons.[9]This underlines the importance of CCTV surveillance in legal proceedings as the recordings of CCTV cameras can prove to be decisive evidence in several cases.

DRAWING THE LINE BETWEEN THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY AND CCTV SURVEILLANCE

In 2017, a landmark judgment was delivered by the Supreme Court in which the Right to Privacy was held to be protected under Article 21 of the Constitution i.e. Right to life and personal liberty.[10] The Court also held that the right to privacy is not absolute and is subjected to other fundamental rights, legitimate national security interest, public interest, criminal offences, unidentifiable data and the tax, etc. These restrictions are subjected to the test of proportionality.[11]  The installation of CCTV cameras in public places by police authorities may be justified as it is for public interest and security. Privacy of those individuals who are under video surveillance becomes a different matter altogether when CCTV cameras are installed in personal and private enclosures and not by the government authorities. There are certain sections in the Information Technology Act, 2000 that pertain to the privacy of the individual, for instance, section 66(E) prescribes punishment for the offence of capturing, transmitting or publishing the image of a private area of a person without his/her consent resulting in violation of the privacy of the individual.[12]Voyeurism is punishable under section 354 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.[13]Unfortunately, violation of privacy through CCTV cameras has been widespread, especially in places like changing rooms of malls or even public and private bathrooms.[14]This calls for a need for strict laws governing the use and installation of CCTV cameras to preclude their misuse. A proper regulation may also prevent violations of the right to privacy and resolve conflicts.

CONCLUSION

The crucial role of CCTV surveillance in legal machinery cannot be ignored. The evidence provided by them can be highly decisive in some cases. However, a balance must be maintained between social security and the privacy of an individual. The use of a tool like CCTV should be in ensuring public security and in aiding legal procedures. It should not be used to violate the rights of the individual. There is a requirement for making rules and regulations that govern the usage and installation of CCTV cameras in public and private enclosures for public security as well as residential use by government authorities or by individuals in their personal capacity. Such regulation will ensure proper usage of CCTV cameras that will make them more effective as a crime deterrent and enhance their role in the legal machinery.

Author(s) Name: Diya Gaur (Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab)

Reference(s):

[1]Rohit Malpani, Madhav Chablani ‘Impact of CCTV surveillance on Crime’ (Center for Criminal Justice and research, IIT Kanpur <https://ccjr.cse.iitk.ac.in/opapers/Impact%20of%20CCTVs%20on%20Crime.pdf>  accessed 22 June 2022. 

[2] Ibid

[3]Piza, E., Welsh, B., Farrington, D. and Thomas, A. ‘CCTV Surveillance for Crime Prevention: A 40-Year Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis’ (2019) 18 (1) Criminology & Public Policy 135

[4] Ibid

[5] Clarke, Ronald V. ‘Situational Crime Prevention.’ (1995) 19Crime and Justice91<http://www.jstor.org/stable/1147596> accessed 19 Jun. 2022.

[6]Indian evidence Act, 1872 (Act no. 1 of 1872) Section 3

[7] IEA, 1872 Section 65 (b)

[8] Tomaso Bruno v. State of U.P., (2015) 7 SCC 178

[9] D.K. Basu v. State of W.B., (2015) 8 SCC 744

[10] K.S. Puttaswamy (Privacy-9J.) v. Union of India, (2017) 10 SCC 1

[11] Ibid

[12]The Information Technology Act,2000 (Act 21 of 2000) Section 66(E)

[13]The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Act no. 45 of 1860) Section 354(C)

[14]Surabhi Agarwal ‘Violation of privacy through CCTV cameras rampant, say experts, the business standard’ (Business Standard, April 4, 2015) <https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/violation-of-privacy-through-cctv-cameras-rampant-say-experts-115040400775_1.html> accessed 21 June 2021.