Even as the Supreme Court directed installation of Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras across all police stations in the country on December 2, the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court, on the same day, went a step ahead and directed police stations in the state to maintain a register detailing the daily functioning of the said CCTV cameras to prevent custodial torture.
The directions were prompted after the HC expressed surprise that many police stations are used to make submissions that the CCTV systems were not functional when footage was sought by the courts in cases pertaining to alleged harassment in police stations.
The bench observed that the register would enable to ascertain the truthfulness of the claims of police regarding non-functional CCTV systems of the day in question.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked states and Union Territories (UT) to “ensure that CCTV cameras are installed in each and every police station functioning” in their respective limits and to store the recording for a minimum of one year.
On the same day, a division bench of Justice Tanaji V Nalawade and Justice Mukund G Sewlikar was informed by one Wajid Mukhtyarmiya Shaikh, who filed a plea through advocate Sachin S Panhale, that CCTV footage of the Umarga police station of Osmanabad district of April 20 this year, which he had sought to substantiate claims in a criminal case against custodial harassment, was not provided by the police and same created ‘serious suspicion’ against the concerned police station.
After perusing the reply filed by Additional Public Prosecutor B V Virdhe for the police, the court confirmed that such footage of the relevant day as sought by petitioner was not available, as on that date the CCTV was not functional.
Expressing displeasure about the lapses, the bench remarked, “This is not the first instance when the concerned police station has informed that CCTV system was not working. Some specific directions are given by this court at this seat and at the principal seat also to see that CCTV systems are installed in every police station and it should cover lockup and other portions of police stations.”
The bench led by Justice Nalawade went on to note, “Such system controls activities like atrocities against persons who are brought to police station. It is surprising that in many cases submission is made that on that particular day, the CCTV system was not working… This cannot be allowed to happen as the purpose behind installing the CCTV system itself is defeated when such submissions are accepted.”
In light of this, the court laid down a procedure to maintain records for seamless functioning of CCTV systems and said that the same must be followed by the police stations in the state.
The HC said that an officer is required to be appointed to oversee working of the system and the recording needs to be seen everyday by some officer, following which entry about it needs to be made in a register.
“This court wants to see that the registers are maintained in respect of the CCTV system in the concerned police station to ascertain the truthfulness of the submission that CCTV system was not working on that day,” the bench directed.
In view of the case in hand, the HC said that if the CCTV system was not working on April 20, ordinarily, an entry of the same in the register could have been immediately taken when the fault was detected.
The court directed the District Superintendent of Police, Osmanabad district, to look into the matter personally and make an enquiry into the procedure adopted for maintenance and working of the CCTV system in the police station. Seeking an inquiry report from the Osmanabad police, the court posted further hearing to December 18.
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