With the aim of preventing custodial torture, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered for installation of CCTV cameras in the offices of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate (ED), the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and other agencies, in addition to police stations across the country.
Extending the ambit of its 2018 order, the top court maintained that not only police stations but all the other agencies, which have the power to make arrests and interrogate, must also have CCTVs and recording devices installed in their premises. Therefore, the bench headed by Justice Rohinton F Nariman directed the central government to get CCTV cameras with audio-recording facility installed in the offices of CBI, ED, NIA, Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) and all such agencies.
“As most of these agencies carry out interrogation in their office(s), CCTVs shall be compulsorily installed in all offices where such interrogation and holding of accused takes place in the same manner as it would in a police station,” directed the bench. In 2018, the court had passed a judgment for bringing all police stations under the surveillance of the CCTV cameras to check human rights abuses. For this purpose, all states were required to constitute independent committees that could study CCTV camera footages and periodically publish reports of its observations.
Further, this judgment asked the Central government to a set up a Central Oversight Body (COB) and provide necessary funds so that it could issue necessary directions to states and union territories to facilitate videography of the crime scenes and compliance with other directions of the apex court.
Two years on, when the bench sought to evaluate the progress made by the states, it noted severe deficiencies in complying with its judgment across the board. At this point, the court sough assistance of attorney general KK Venugopal and appointed senior advocate Siddhartha Dave as amicus curiae (friend of the court) to navigate the matter to a fruitful outcome.
After receiving suggestions from Venugopal and Dave, the bench expanded the ambit of its order and included central agencies too. Besides, the court order made SHO of each police station responsible for upkeep and maintenance of CCTV cameras. The cameras need to be installed at all entry and exit points, main gate of the police station, all lock-ups, reception area, officials’ rooms, and station hall.