March 3, 2021 4:53:50 am
THE SUPREME Court on Tuesday took exception to the Centre seeking more time to comply with its direction to install CCTV cameras in the offices of central investigative agencies and observed that it was getting the impression that the government was dragging its feet.
“We are getting a distinct impression that you are dragging your feet,” a bench headed by Justice R F Nariman said.
The bench, also comprising Justices B R Gavai and Hrishikesh Roy, said it was not accepting the “excuses” given by the Centre seeking adjournment. “This concerns the rights of citizens…We are not accepting the excuses,” the bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Centre.
Mehta submitted that the matter may have ramifications and sought time to reply. The bench responded: “We are not concerned about the ramifications.”
On December 2 last year, the court had asked the states and Union Territories 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 period of one year.
The court also asked the central government “to install CCTV cameras and recording equipment” in the offices of the Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, Enforcement Directorate, Narcotics Control Bureau, Department of Revenue Intelligence, Serious Fraud Investigation Office and “any other agency which carries out interrogations and has the power of arrest… in the same manner as it would in a police station”.
The ruling came on a petition filed by Paramvir Singh Saini, who raised the issue of audio-video recording of statements of witnesses and installation of CCTVs in police stations.
On Tuesday, the court asked Mehta about the allocation of funds for CCTV installation in central agency offices. Mehta sought some more time following which the court gave three weeks time to file an affidavit.
Senior Advocate Siddharth Dave, who is assisting the court as Amicus Curiae in the matter, submitted a report on the time-line of different states to comply with the December 2 direction.
The court had in the D K Basu versus State of West Bengal case of 2015 directed that CCTVs be installed in all police stations and prisons to check human rights abuses.
However, when it sought a status report from the states and UTs on Saini’s petition, 14 states and two UTs responded. The majority of them lacked details on installation and working of the CCTV cameras in their police stations following which the court directed that “it is imperative to ensure that CCTV cameras are installed” at all police stations.
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