Favouring the use of modern technology for investigating crimes, the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to look into a suggestion of policemen using GPS enabled digital cameras having a time stamp system for taking photographs of crime scenes. The apex court also asked the Centre to consider whether states could create portals for uploading of crime scene images, from which time stamp and reference numbers can be noted.
A bench of Justices Adarsh Goel and U U Lalit, which heard the submissions of senior advocate Arun Mohan, who has been appointed as amicus curiae in the matter, said the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) can issue a manual. Mohan suggested in his submission that these digital cameras were available in market for a cost of Rs 8000 each but the final specifications could be laid down by the BPR&D. He said once the images are uploaded on the portal, the digital images can be sent to the concerned police stations where it could be downloaded and added to the case diary.
“The BPR&D may also prepare crime scene photography manual in English and regional languages,” he said and added that money for these steps can be used from funds which are lying largely unutilised. Counsel appearing for Centre said the government can contemplate use of digital cameras by policemen at the metros, which can later be used in suburban and rural areas due to internet connectivity issues.
The bench then said the government should consider using this technology at least in all district head quarters and subsequently move to rural areas in a time bound manner. The bench asked the counsel for Centre to consider the submissions of Mohan and the court and respond to them by March 7. The issue of digital photography of crime scenes had come up before the bench while examining a question whether videography of the scene of crime or scene of recovery during investigation should be necessary to inspire confidence in the evidence collected.
The Centre had on October 12, 2017, informed the top court that the issue of video recording of crime scenes was discussed by the union home secretary with the chief secretaries of the States in which a decision was taken to constitute a Committee of Experts (COE) to facilitate and prepare a roadmap for use of videography in the crime scene and propose a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). However, several counsels had cast apprehensions about the implementation of the measure on account of scarcity of funds, issues of securing and storage of data and admissibility of evidence.
The court had then suggested that even still-photography may be useful on account of higher resolution for forensic analysis. “Digital cameras can be placed on a mount on a tripod which may enable rotation and tilting. Secured portals may be established by which the Investigation Officer can e-mail photograph(s) taken at the crime scene. Digital Images can be retained on State’s server as permanent record,” it had said.
The Centre had earlier told the top court that videography will help the investigation and was being successfully used in other countries. It had referred to the perceived benefits of “Body-Worn Cameras” in the United States and the United Kingdom and said these body cameras also acted as deterrent against anti-social behaviour and is also a tool to collect the evidence.
The government had said that new technological device for collection of evidence are order of the day and referrance was made to the Field Officers’ Handbook of Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) under Ministry of Home Affairs.