The Supreme Court expressed dissatisfaction towards the request for more time by the Union Government regarding the installation of CCTV cameras in the offices of central probe agencies such as CBI, NIA, NCB, etc.
To keep a check on the cases of custodial torture, a bench headed by Justice RF Nariman had issued directions to install CCTV cameras in police stations across the country as well as in the offices of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate (ED), National Investigation Agency (NIA), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI).
The matter was scheduled for hearing while the Centre had already circulated a letter seeking adjournment.
Justice Nariman expressed displeasure over the request of the Centre and apprised the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta,
“We are getting a distinct impression that you are dragging your feet. What kind of letter have you circulated?”
To the aforementioned statement, the Solicitor general replied that adjournment was pursued keeping in mind the potential ramifications of the order.
Justice Nariman replied,
“What ramifications? We are not concerned about the ramifications. This concerns the rights of the citizens. This concerns the rights of citizenry under Article 21 of the Constitution. We are not accepting the excuses given in the letter.”
The Solicitor-General then requested the Court to ignore the letter seeking adjournment and submitted that State Government is responsible for allocating funds for installing CCTVs to which Nariman brought SG Mehta’s attention to paragraph 19 of the order which constituted two parts – one regarding the constitution of a Central Oversight Body and another regarding the installation of CCTVs in Central probe agencies.
Justice Nariman further explained,
“We are not concerned with the Central Oversight Body today. We are concerned with the second part of the paragraph. You tell us the funds that are allotted.”
SG Mehta responded by requesting the Court to grant ten days to file an affidavit responding to the Court’s query.
The bench comprising Justices Nariman and BR Gavai passed the order, “We heard Solicitor General Shri Tushar Mehta. The directions in paragraph 19 of our order have not yet been followed. We direct the Union to file an affidavit within 3 weeks stating exactly how much financial outlay is required and the timeline within which they are going to carry out the directions contained in the second sentence of paragraph 19 of the aforesaid order.”
The bench also expressed displeasure after examining the chart submitted by amicus curiae Senior Advocate Sidharth Dave concerning the timeline sought by the state governments to follow the court’s order.
The bench also directed the States to make budgetary allocations for compliance with the court’s order within one month from today and to install the CCTVs within four months after that.
For boll-bound states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam, West Bengal, and the Union Territory of Puducherry is required to make budgetary allocations as well as install CCTVs in all police stations.
States like Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have been given eight months (2 months of budgetary allocations and 6 months for implementation) and nine months (3 months of budgetary allocations and 6 months for implementation) respectively keeping in mind the gigantic territorial extent and a large number of police stations.
The said order was passed by a bench comprising Justices RF Nariman, KM Joseph, and Aniruddha Bose in the case of Paramvir Singh Saini v Baljit Singh. The Court had also clarified that victims of custodial torture will have the right to seek CCTV footage of interrogation by police agencies.