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Summons and CCTVs

APRIL 27, 2022

By Vijay Kumar

RECENTLY, the Rajasthan High Court 2022-TIOL-584-HC-RAJ-GST while rejecting a petition seeking exemption from personal appearance pursuant to summons issued under Section 70 of the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017, observed,

taking note of the directions issued by the Supreme Court in the case of Paramvir Singh Saini Vs. Baljit Singh & Others - 2020-TIOL-175-SC-MISC-LB, that even in the matter of issuance of summons under Section 70 of the Act of 2017 for personal appearance and recording of statement, certain procedure has to be followed as stated therein. All such procedure as laid down therein will have to be followed by the respondents while recording the statement of the petitioner pursuant to summons issued under Section 70 of the Act of 2017.

What is the procedure laid down?

In its order date December 02, 2020 - 2020-TIOL-175-SC-MISC-LB, the Supreme Court ordered:

19. The Union of India is also directed to install CCTV cameras and recording equipment in the offices of:

(i) Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

(ii) National Investigation Agency (NIA)

(iii) Enforcement Directorate (ED)

(iv) Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB)

(v) Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI)

(vi) Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO)

(vii) Any other agency which carries out interrogations and has the power of arrest.

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.

20. The SLOC and the COB (where applicable) shall give directions to all Police Stations, investigative/enforcement agencies to prominently display at the entrance and inside the police stations/offices of investigative/enforcement agencies about the coverage of the concerned premises by CCTV. This shall be done by large posters in English, Hindi and vernacular language. In addition to the above, it shall be clearly mentioned therein that a person has a right to complain about human rights violations to the National/State Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Court or the Superintendent of Police or any other authority empowered to take cognizance of an offence. It shall further mention that CCTV footage is preserved for a certain minimum time period, which shall not be less than six months, and the victim has a right to have the same secured in the event of violation of his human rights.

21. Since these directions are in furtherance of the fundamental rights of each citizen of India guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, and since nothing substantial has been done in this regard for a period of over 2½ years since our first Order dated 03.04.2018, the Executive/Administrative/police authorities are to implement this Order both in letter and in spirit as soon as possible. Affidavits will be filed by the Principal Secretary/Cabinet Secretary/Home Secretary of each State/ Union Territory giving this Court a firm action plan with exact timelines for compliance with today's Order. This is to be done within a period of six weeks from today.

So,

1. CCTV has to be installed in the office where the person is summoned,

2. Large posters have to be displayed in the office that there is CCTV coverage,

3. It shall be clearly mentioned therein that a person has a right to complain about human rights violations to the National/State Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Court or the Superintendent of Police or any other authority empowered to take cognizance of an offence.

Is the DGGI office and other GST offices where a person is summoned, so equipped? Will the summoned person have a right to be informed by the GST offices that the procedure would be followed strictly and completely? Can there be an area not covered by CCTVs? The Supreme Court has answered this question as:

The State and Union Territory Governments should ensure that CCTV cameras are installed in each and every Police Station functioning in the respective State and/or Union Territory. Further, in order to ensure that no part of a Police Station is left uncovered, it is imperative to ensure that CCTV cameras are installed at all entry and exit points; main gate of the police station; all lock-ups; all corridors; lobby/the reception area; all verandas/outhouses, Inspector's room; Sub-Inspector's room; areas outside the lock-up room; station hall; in front of the police station compound; outside (not inside) washrooms/toilets; Duty Officer's room; back part of the police station etc.

As the inside of the toilets are not covered by the CCTV directions, can the summoned person be questioned inside the toilets? Can he claim a right to be questioned outside the toilets and in front of the cameras? Can the questioning be postponed if power fails or the CCTV cameras don't function? The Supreme Court order says that CCTV footage is preserved for a certain minimum time period, which shall not be less than six months, and the victim has a right to have the same secured in the event of violation of his human rights. Should it be ensured that the officers don't tinker with CCTV recorded footage?

What happened after the Supreme Court judgement?

The case was again listed on 27.01.2021 and on that day the Supreme Court observed,

It is obvious that the first thing which stares us in the face is that finances have to be made over and budgetary allocations made in order that our orders be complied with in letter and spirit. We, therefore, direct each of the States/Union Territories mentioned in this Chart to file an affidavit within a period of three weeks from today as to what concrete steps have been taken towards financial/budgetary allocation, including exact amounts so that our directions can be carried out. This is to be done by the concerned Secretaries of the State Governments/Union Territories. We may also indicate that though we have not gone into details, it is clear that the timelines that have been given by some States for compliance are far too long. In the affidavit(s) to be filed on the next occasion, they may have a re-look at some of these timelines, and the States/Union Territories which have not provided any timelines for compliance may do so.

We find that so far as the States of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Nagaland, Mizoram, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Lakshadweep are concerned, they have not, till date, filed any affidavits of compliance. The Principal Secretaries of each of these States/Union Territories to remain present at the next visual hearing before this Court for necessary action to be taken, considering that the attitude of least concern does not commend itself to this Court, given the fact that the citizens Fundamental Rights under Article 21 are involved.

Mr. Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General, seeks time for another four weeks to file the requisite affidavit pursuant to our order dated 02.12.2020. He is given three weeks' time to do so.

List on 02.03.2021.

On 02.03.2021, the Supreme Court observed,

We have heard Sh. Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General, and have pointed out to him that there was no warrant for asking for an adjournment once again. Paragraph 19 of our order dated 02.12.2020 has not yet been followed. We direct the Union of India to file an affidavit within three weeks from today, stating exactly how much financial outlay is required, and the timeline within which they are going to carry out the directions contained in the second sentence, in particular, of Paragraph 19 of the aforesaid order.

List the matter on 06.04.2021 for compliance of the Union of India qua Paragraph 19 of our order dated 02.12.2020.

The matter came up on 06.04.2021 and the Supreme Court observed,

We have been informed that since the last occasion, the Union of India has now filed an affidavit in which it is indicated that certain amounts by way of budgetary allocation are necessary so far as the six agencies are concerned in order to implement our order.

We direct that the budgetary allocation of these amounts be made within one month from today. We direct that after budgetary allocation is made within the one month given by us, our earlier orders will be implemented in letter and spirit within a period of six months from the date on which budgetary allocation is made.

Next date was fixed as 20th October 2021. It did not come up on that day and was not listed after that. There is no news as to what happened to the directions of the Supreme Court. Were CCTVs installed in all the GST offices, especially those of investigating agencies like DGGI? Has anyone seen posters explaining these features?

The Rajasthan High Court has directed the DGGI to follow the procedure prescribed by the Supreme Court for the summons issued. Has the DGGI provided CCTVs in its offices? Above all, the government informed the Supreme Court that money is required to buy the equipment. Have they got the financial sanction and is the money released, equipment purchased, installed, and working?

Can the summons be postponed till the money is sanctioned, released, CCTVs are bought and installed and in working condition?

Can the DGGI tell the Rajasthan High Court that we didn't get the money yet to buy the CCTV cameras, but we want to go ahead with the summons. We promise that we will be good, courteous and polite to the person summoned, even without CCTV cameras staring into us and the future accused!

Until Next week


 RECENT DISCUSSION(S) POST YOUR COMMENTS
   
 
Sub: Another Sabarimala judgment

The Superior Courts are free to give directions. Courts have no responsibility to either implement the directions or provide finances therefor. Going by the budget documents, I assume that the governments do not have slush funds for financing such installations. So such directions will meet the same fate as Sabarimala judgment.

Posted by Gururaj B N