Former top judge says privacy violated by CCTVs installed at HC Chief Justice's residence.
Citing invasion of his and his family members’ privacy by the high-resolution CCTV cameras installed at the residence of Punjab and Haryana High Court Chief Justice, a former Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court filed a petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which was disposed of Tuesday by the division bench of Justice Jaswant Singh and Justice Sant Parkash. The detailed order is yet to come out.
Justice N K Sodhi (retd) had moved High Court apprehending that the high-resolution CCTV cameras installed at the official residence of Punjab and Haryana High Court Chief Justice Ravi Shanker Jha’s residence in Sector 4 could record the movement of people visiting Justice Sodhi’s private house (opposite Chief Justice’s official house) and thus it was hampering his fundamental rights of privacy.
His counsel, Arjun Partap Atma Ram, told The Indian Express that Registrar General, Punjab and Haryana High Court had written to Justice Sodhi that the cameras’ range was about 30 metres. Thus, the petition was disposed of, Tuesday, with certain observations.
Claiming that the range of the cameras was 150 metres, Justice Sodhi (retd) had filed the petition against “Union of India through the Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Union territory of Chandigarh through its Administrator, Advisor to the Administrator, Chandigarh Police through the Director General of Police; Punjab and Haryana High Court through its Registrar and the Director General (CRPF).
In his petition, Justice Sodhi (retd) had sought directions to “remove the CCTV cameras installed near the front boundary of the Chief Justice’s residence – House No 35, Sector 4, Chandigarh, which can invade the privacy of the petitioner, and alternatively, to relocate the cameras, so that they cannot look towards the house of the petitioner”.
The petitioner had also sought that directions be issued to the respondents “to frame rules regarding installation of CCTV cameras in Chandigarh”, “dispense with the service of advance notices upon the respondents”, “award the costs of the petition in favour of petitioner and against the respondents”.
Citing his grievance, Justice Sodhi’s petition mentioned, “The petitioner is aggrieved by the installation and setting up of surveillance cameras on tall poles in the residence of the Hon’ble Chief Justice of this Hon’ble Court — House No. 35, Sector 4, Chandigarh which is opposite the house of the petitioner. Photographs of the cameras installed in the residence can be produced if so desired by this Hon’ble High Court. The petitioner believes that they are high resolution infrared CCTV cameras of model DS-2AE 7232T1-A (D), which have a range of 150 metres and are capable of capturing detailed images up to that distance. They have the capability of capturing images in extremely poor dim light and have the option of recording audio signals in addition to video. The privacy mask feature is mandatory to safeguard the privacy of those living around the installation of such cameras in the residential areas abroad”.
“The CCTV cameras installed can monitor the street in front of the Chief Justice’s House and at least the petitioner’s house and the adjoining House No. 34 and 37, Sector 4, Chandigarh, apart from being able to monitor the green belts/parks to the west of the said house and in south-west of the said house. The cameras can record persons and cars and other vehicles coming to, leaving, going in and going out of the petitioner’s house, they can look into the front portion of the petitioner’s built-up house and the side portion of the petitioner’s built up house. Thus, there is an invasion of privacy of all the residents of house no. 36, Sector 4, including the petitioner and his family,” Justice Sodhi’s petition mentioned.
Arguing that there was enough security in the area, the petition said:
“There are six other Hon’ble Judges living in House No. 23, 24, 25, 27, 29 and 31 of Sector 4, Chandigarh, which are officially earmarked houses for judges of this Hon’ble Court. Each one of these houses has CRPF security. Further, the house adjoining the residence of Chief Justice – House No. 37 is earmarked for the Director, PGIMER who also has government security. Further, the second house (adjoining Director, PGIMER) is residence of Additional Chief Secretary, Haryana who again has a large contingent of security personnel. In addition, there is usually a Chandigarh Police PCR van patrolling the area during night hours and early morning hours. Thus, there is ample security for the Hon’ble Chief Justice.”
It added, “The petition respectfully submits that the installation and use of the high resolution sophisticated CCTV cameras at the official residence of the Hon’ble Chief Justice of this Hon’ble Court is a direct invasion of the privacy of the petitioner….Individual dignity and privacy are linked…The right to privacy cannot be subject to the ever growing possibilities of technological and psychological intrusions by the state. Further, the right to privacy is not lost merely because the individual is in a public place”.
Citing relevant judgements, Justice Sodhi (retd) added, “The right to privacy as contained in Part III of the Constitution of India is well recognised. Reference in this regard may be made to (2017) 10 SCC page 1, (KS Puttaswamy versus Union of India), a 9-Judge bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. In Indian Hotels and Restaurants Association Case (2019) 3 SCC 429, Hon’ble Supreme Court struck down the requirement of installation of CCTV cameras within dance bars in Maharashtra, holding it to be an invasion of privacy.”
Further citing Delhi government’s guidelines, Justice Sodhi (retd) added, “It is thus, apparent that CCTV cameras cannot be located at such a place that enables it to collect information which invades the privacy of an individual. Further, it requires a notice to be put up for information of the general public that the area is under CCTV surveillance along with the name and contact number of the person to be contacted in case of any complaint. The notice has to be put at a place in public view”.
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