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    Punjab & Haryana HC Issues Contempt Notice to Haryana Police Over “Wilful Disobedience” of Top Court’s CCTV Orders

    The Punjab and Haryana High Court has issued a contempt notice to Haryana’s Director General of Police (DGP) and the Superintendent of Police, Panipat, for “wilful disobedience” of the Supreme Court’s directions regarding installation of CCTVs in all police stations, including Special Investigation Units/Cells, according to a report by LiveLaw on May 30, 2024.

    The Court was hearing a plea regarding formation of a Special Investigation Team to probe the case of the petitioner’s minor grandson, who allegedly faced detention and torture at Panipat police station, for extracting information about his father’s alleged false implication in a criminal case. The petitioner alleges that the CCTV evidence of the incident was destroyed.

    Directing the Home Secretary to install CCTV cameras at all places of investigation and premises used by the Haryana police, Justice Vinod Bhardwaj noted:

    “The State cannot be permitted to bypass the guaranteed fundamental rights under Article 21 of the Constitution of India by preferring to selectively misread and give restricted interpretation to the generic expression used by the Hon’ble Supreme Court while dealing with the constitutional matter and rights granted under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. While importing the expression of Police Station from the Cr.P.C., an attempt has been made by the respondent-State to curtail the generic expression used by the Hon’ble Supreme Court and to defeat the intent and object of the judgment.”

    What were the Supreme Court directions in 2020?

    To ensure police accountability and to keep a check on human rights abuse by police officials, the Supreme Court (SC) in 2020 had directed that every police station in the country must be equipped with night-vision CCTV cameras, capable of recording both the video and the audio. As per the Court’s directions, CCTV cameras will have to be installed at the offices of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), National Investigation Agency (NIA), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO), and any other central agency office which does interrogations, and enjoys the authority to arrest people.

    Moreover, the top Court also held that law enforcement agencies must ensure that recordings captured by the CCTV cameras are available to a person who “complains of force being used against them while they were in custody”. Read more about the SC’s directions here.

    Interestingly, in January, the Haryana state government announced it had installed around 7,500 CCTV cameras in 765 police stations and posts across the state at a cost of Rs 106 Crores. The CCTV setup, currently on a trial basis, covers police stations, offices of senior officers, including IGs and SPs, interrogation rooms, lock-ups, record rooms, boundary walls, and other critical facilities. In the present case, the State submitted to the Court that the SC’s directions was only to install CCTVs at police stations and not other interrogation or investigation rooms, as per the LiveLaw report.

    CCTV recordings are crucial evidence in custodial abuse cases

    In November 2023, a complaint filed by an individual in Madhya Pradesh, who was a victim of police abuse, brought to light the failure of the State police to comply with the apex Court’s directions. The complainant was denied access to CCTV evidence of an attack on him by the police, under the Right to Information (RTI) request. It was found that in at least 80 cases, the state police declined RTI requests regarding CCTV footage from police stations for varying reasons.

    The Madhya Pradesh State Information Commission (SIC) directed the State Director General of Police (DGP) that CCTV recordings of events inside the police stations must be preserved safely until RTI applications and subsequent appeals are decided. Notably, the SIC also highlighted that there are instances of human rights abuse inside police stations and in such cases, requests for CCTV evidence are linked to fundamental rights of the victim under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

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    The post Punjab & Haryana HC Issues Contempt Notice to Haryana Police Over “Wilful Disobedience” of Top Court’s CCTV Orders appeared first on MEDIANAMA.

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