In its bid to bring down custodial deaths, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed the government to install close circuit television (CCTV) cameras in? every corridor and rooms of all police stations across the state. Maharashtra has the dubious distinction of accounting for 23.48 per cent of the total custodial deaths in the country and zero conviction rate. The HC is hearing two petitions, seeking probes by the Central Bureau of Investigation into some cases where people were killed in police custody.
The HC directive
"We direct the state government to immediately implement CCTVs and maintain it in every corridor and rooms of the police station so that every part of a police station is under surveillance," observed the HC. Besides, the HC has directed that the tapes of the CCTV recordings should be preserved for at least one year.
A division bench of justices VM Kanade and PD Kode ordered the government to get the cameras installed urgently and submit a status report in four weeks. The in-charge of a police station will ensure that the CCTVs are operational, said the court.
On illegal detention
Amicus curiae Yug Chaudhary informed the court that in most cases, custodial deaths take place when a person is illegally detained and not produced before the magistrate for remand. Ideally, after arrest, an accused has to be produced within 24 hours before a magistrate, who remands him/her to either police custody or judicial custody. To this, the court said the production and remand of an accused should be followed in letter and spirit. Immediately after arrest, relatives of the accused should be informed of arrest and reason for it.
Safety, health of an accused
"Safety, health and well being of the accused will be the responsibility of the arresting officer, investigating officer and the station house officer," observed the court. As and when any accused in police custody is found injured, he shall be immediately taken to nearby hospital and provided "best medical attention and see that he is restored to health", said the judges. Also, the injuries should be photographed. The HC has instructed magistrates to apply their mind while granting or extending custody of accused on whom injury marks are found.
"In the event of death in custody, the post mortem should be videographed and preserved," said the judges. The court said that in the event a person dies in custody and injury is found on him, FIR should be registered immediately and steps should be taken to arrest the perpetrator. The magistrates have been further asked to monitor the investigation in the custodial deaths matter and deal with such cases on a priority basis.
Appoint of special public prosecutors
The state has been further directed to appoint special public prosecutor assisted with a woman prosecutor to handle custodial deaths matter. Following an acquittal in such matters, the prosecutor has been asked to submit a report to the commissioner of police giving reasons for the acquittal.
333 custodial deaths between 1999 and 2013
19 cases where charge sheets have been filed
"Are the figures published and forgotten? Can't the state take remedial measures?" asked Justice Kanade.
Chaudhary also pointed out that the Law Commission of India had published its recommendations in 2010, wherein it had said that CCTV cameras should be installed in all the police stations. He also pointed out that the Nagpur bench of the HC had directed the state to ensure complete CCTV surveillance at all police stations, but nothing has been done so far.
Agnelo Valdaris case
In the the custodial killing of Wadala youth Agnelo Valdaris, the CBI informed the HC that no one was co-operating with the investigation. "It will take time due to the nature of the investigation," said CBI counsel Shyam Mehta. Submitting the progress report in a sealed cover, Mehta said they have some witnesses coming forward but it will take time. The court expressed satisfaction with the probe.
However, the judges questioned if senior officers were trying to shield their men. "There is no way to control. No higher authority is worried about the victims. We don't know why the higher authorities turn a blind eye to such incidents," remarked justice Kanade.
Valdaris, 25, was picked up along with three others by the Wadala railway police on April 15 in a theft case. Three days later, the police said he was run over by a local train while trying to escape.
What happens in other countries
- European Union has made it mandatory to install CCTV in all rooms in police stations.
- CCTVs are installed in all the police stations in Spain. As per a report by Amnesty International in 2010 of one district in Spain, misbehaviour by cops was reduced by 40 per cent after cameras were installed.