High Court directs oversight committees to submit reports on CCTVs in police stations of Himachal Pradesh
Shimla, May 12
In a move aimed at improving surveillance and accountability in the state, the High Court of Himachal Pradesh has directed State Level Oversight Committees (SLOCs) and District Level Oversight Committees (DLOCs) to file detailed reports on the purchase, distribution, installation, maintenance, and upkeep of CCTV cameras and their equipment in the police stations of the state. The court issued the order on May 11, 2023, in response to a petition from the People for Responsible Governance and another party against the state and others.
A double bench of Justice Tirlok Chauhan and Justice Virender Singh heard arguments from both the petitioners and the respondents’ representatives, and then ordered the SLOCs and DLOCs to submit respective affidavits by the next date of hearing, which is set for June 15, 2023.
The court has asked for specific details, such as the steps taken to obtain budgetary allocation for the CCTVs, the continuous monitoring of maintenance and upkeep of the equipment, and the measures taken to address grievances received from the DLOC.
The DLOCs have also been directed to file affidavits detailing their supervision of the CCTV cameras and their interaction with Station House Officers (SHOs) as well as sending monthly reports to the SLOCs about the functioning of CCTVs and allied equipment. In addition, they have been asked to review footage stored from CCTVs in various police stations to check for any human rights violations that may have occurred but are not reported.
The court’s order is seen as an important step towards ensuring the protection of human rights and improving transparency and accountability in the state’s surveillance systems. The use of CCTV cameras in India has been a contentious issue, with concerns about privacy violations and the potential misuse of footage by authorities.
The court’s decision to direct oversight committees to file detailed reports is likely to be welcomed by activists and civil society groups working on issues related to privacy and human rights.
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Background of the matter
The petitioner PERGO is a society registered under The Himachal Pradesh Society Registration Act 2006 and comprises of advocates, academicians, and law students who work towards upholding the rule of law. The petitioner No. 2 in the matter, is an advocate who was allegedly, brutally beaten up by the police outside and inside the Police Station Boileauganj on 06-09-2022, when he went to register an FIR against persons who had attacked his friend Anil Thakur. Despite clarifying that he was not related to the mob, the police officials were drunk and continued to beat the petitioner. Later, the petitioner sent a complaint to the Superintendent of Police, Shimla, but no action was taken against the erring officials.
In the following days, the petitioner filed a Right to Information (RTI) application to Public Information Officer/ Station House Officer, and then to the District Level Oversight Committee, asking for the video recordings of cameras installed at Boileauganj Police Station on the day of the incident. The CCTV footage was initially refused on the grounds that it was third-party information, but it was later discovered that there was only one CCTV camera in the Police Station in violation of a Supreme Court judgment.
In the court, the petitioner highlighted the mandatory directions given by the Apex Court in PARAMVIR SINGH SAINI VERSUS BALJIT SINGH & OTHERS SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO.3543 of 2020, which are not being implemented in totality by the state of Himachal Pradesh. As a consequence, valuable human rights of citizens are being violated. The petitioner has filed a petition in the court, demanding appropriate action against the erring officials and seeking justice for the violation of his Right to Life.
The case highlights the importance of upholding the rule of law and the need for the authorities to follow the guidelines set by the Supreme Court to protect the rights of citizens, stated petitioner.
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