A woman from Tripura has moved the state women’s commission against her husband for installing CCTVs in the house, including their bedroom. Her husband claims the move was an act of “self-defence”.
The case pertains to an estranged couple from Sadhutilla village in Pratapgarh area of West Tripura district. The couple got married three years ago. The woman, however, claims demands for dowry began soon after. “His family didn’t demand any dowry at the time of marriage. But shortly after we were married, they (in-laws) started torturing me for dowry. My mother-in-law, brother in-law, even neighbours started harassing me mentally and physically,” she told indianexpress.com.
She alleged that her family paid Rs 2 lakh dowry by selling a piece of ancestral land, but the torture continued. On top of that, she suspected an extra-marital relationship between her husband and one of his relatives. The situation went out of control when the woman’s husband installed five CCTV cameras in the four-room house last September. From December she has been living with her mother.
“There were cameras everywhere – the main entrance, corridor, my mother in-law’s room, our bedroom and another room in the house. The monitor is placed in my mother in-law’s room. It is a serious infringement of personal space. I am a woman and having a CCTV camera recording everything, even in private space, is very humiliating,” she told indianexpress.com.
After her pleas failed to yield results, the woman sought recourse from Tripura Commission for Women (TCW) this month. A formal complaint was lodged with charges of domestic violence, dowry torture and adultery among other issues against her husband on July 2. During the first counselling session this Wednesday, she complained about the CCTV cameras.
However, the man denied all charges. “I am innocent. I haven’t taken dowry, neither do I have any illicit relationship with anyone. I find it humiliating to discuss this but the entire complaint was made to take revenge from us since my wife threatened us with prison term while leaving my house.”
He said his wife was very suspicious and behaved badly with him, his mother and relatives. He says the cameras were installed in “self-defence”, to pre-empt allegations and keep proof of his innocence. Asked if he might have gone too far with the CCTV cameras in the bedroom, he said he slept in a separate bed and installed the camera only to cover his side.
TCW chairperson Barnali Goswami called it a “rare and serious” crime. “How can a woman live under constant surveillance in her most private quarters? We have heard both parties on Wednesday and gave them 45 days to reconsider. Meanwhile, the husband has been asked to pay Rs 3,000 per month as maintenance to his wife”.
Installing CCTV cameras is legal in private space in India and doesn’t require any special licensing. However, it is a criminal offence as per Section 354 C of the Indian Penal Code if such cameras are used for voyeurism. Such a crime could land anyone in jail for 1-3 years with a fine for their first offence, and up to seven years jail term plus fine for subsequent offences. There are prohibitory provisions in the law in case CCTV cameras are installed in private spaces such as toilets, bathrooms, bedrooms etc.