The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has set up a central oversight body (COB) to ensure use of videography at crime scenes and video-recording of statements of witnesses in an effort to prevent botch-up at the crime scene and hostile witnesses, particularly in high-profile cases.
The COB will be headed by Rina Mitra, Special Secretary (Internal Security) at MHA, officials said.
Last month, the Supreme Court had directed Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba to prepare a roadmap for videography of crime scene. The court was acting on a special leave petition.
On the MHA’s suggestions, the apex court later opted for a centrally driven plan in which cities with a population of 50 lakh or more, along with at least one district of every remaining state or Union Territory, will be taken up for the project in its first phase.
The Home Ministry will ensure use of videography at crime scene in the selected cities and states within the next three months, according to officials.
Tampering of evidence at the crime scene in cases such as Jessica Lall murder, Aarushi-Hemraj double murder and the recent murder of a boy from Gurgaon’s Ryan International School, among others, resulted in either acquittal or framing of innocent people.
Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni, while emphasising the need for use of cameras in the apex court, cited its use by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) of the US Justice Department. “In its report, NIJ has noted the perceived benefits for using body-worn cameras and also the precautions needed in doing so. The British Transport Police has also found body-worn cameras as deterrent against anti-social behaviour, and (a) tool to collect evidence,” he submitted.
As per the Centre’s proposal, states will have to introduce digital cameras and establish secured portals, and investigation officers can email photographs taken at the crime scene to these portals. “To give authenticity and prevent manipulation, digital images can be retained on state’s server as permanent record,” an MHA official said. “The state server can re-mail the digital files back to the police station for further use. Smartphones will be used until this is done.”
The MHA also suggested that the states set up an oversight mechanism, an independent committee to study CCTV footage installed to check human rights abuse at police stations.
A senior government official said, “Most states are in favour of implementing the scheme… But they expressed reservations in implementation of a plan which includes funding, securing the data and its storage. States have also raised doubts over admissibility of evidence before the court…”