Order to install CCTV cameras in courts is only for security reasons, clarifies Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Wednesday clarified that its orders directing the government to install closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in courts and tribunals is meant solely for security purposes and not to record proceedings, which anyway were open to the public. "We have passed orders for installation of CCTV cameras so that concerns regarding safety and administration of justice could be addressed. A court proceeding is open to all those who are present in the court, but it may not be open to everyone who is not there in the court too," a Bench of Justices A.K.

Goel and U.U. Lalit said. On March 28, 2017, the Supreme Court directed that CCTV cameras should be installed in courts and important locations of court complexes in at least two districts in every State and Union Territory.

The monitor of these cameras should be placed in the chamber of the district and session judge concerned. The apex court had, in its order, made it clear that footage from the cameras would not be made available to the public under the Right to Information Act or without the permission of the High Court concerned. The court had also considered the issue of CCTV cameras in tribunals where open hearing takes place like courts.

It was further directed that cameras may be installed in subordinate courts in a phased manner.

"Substantial work" done by government

Examining the status report filed by the Centre on the installation of cameras, the Supreme Court on Wednesday observed that "substantial work" had been done by the government in this regard. "Only further issue that survives is whether installation of CCTV cameras can be considered in State tribunals and quasi judicial authorities, including the executive magistrate and revenue courts," the Supreme Court recorded in its order. It asked the High Courts and the Centre to consider this issue and take a decision.

The court asked the Union Law Ministry to take a call on whether CCTV cameras should be installed in central quasi judicial authorities within four weeks. Amicus curiae and senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, however, urged the court to address the concerns over exposing the identity of victims in sexual offences/protected witnesses while having CCTV cameras in courtrooms. The Bench said the High Courts and the Centre should consider this aspect and pass necessary timely instructions.

The court scheduled the PIL petition filed by Pradyuman Bisht in 2015 for next hearing on April 5.

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