News Update

 
DRI interrogation rooms - in Camera

AUGUST 16, 2023

By Vijay Kumar

LAST week, the ‘Economic Times' reported, Cameras must in DRI interrogation rooms, customs clearance offices & check-posts, says CBIC. The report elaborated,

Interrogation rooms of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, customs clearance offices and check posts will have to mandatorily install cameras, according to a directive from the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs. The move comes following a recommendation from the Parliamentary Standing committee on finance .

"The Board has asked all the zonal heads to install CCTV cameras in all the DRI interrogation room, Customs offices and enquiry rooms to ensure more transparency in the enforcement of the laws," a senior official told ET. The official added that the department had already placed a procurement order for CCTV cameras for 60% of offices, the installation is expected to be completed 100% by the end of this year. "The purpose is that all formal and informal interactions between the official and taxpayers at place of duty has to be recorded," the official added.

We don't know:

1. When the Parliamentary Standing committee on finance recommended this;

2. Whether DRI has interrogation rooms officially and whether they are empowered to interrogate;

3. Who the senior officer is and how senior he is.

Anyway, in its judgement dated December 02, 2020 in Paramvir Singh Saini 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. All Police Stations, investigative/enforcement agencies should 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. 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 offices,

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.

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 office(r)s 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?   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 to file an affidavit within a period of three weeks as to what concrete steps have been taken towards financial/budgetary allocation, including exact amounts so that our directions can be carried out.

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.

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 came up on 21-02-2023 . On that day, the Supreme Court noted,

Many of the agencies under the Union of India and various State Governments have not complied with the directions for installation of CCTV cameras in the police station as well as the offices of agencies under the Union of India.

It would be appropriate that the Union of India as well as all the States/Union Territories shall file an affidavit stating therein the present status with regard to the compliance of the directions issued by this Court. The said affidavit shall be submitted on or prior to 29.03.2023.

We clarify that in the event the directions, as issued by this Court, are not complied with by the Union of India and the respective State Governments/Union Territories, we shall be compelled to take such steps as found necessary against the Secretary (Home), Union of India as well as the Chief Secretary and the Secretary (Home) of the respective State Governments.

The case was posted to 18.04.2023 and on that day the Supreme Court noted that:

insofar as Union of India and other 26 State Governments/Union Territories are concerned, the Report would show that either there is non-compliance with both the aspects or noncompliance with one of them.

This is not an adversarial litigation. When this Court had issued directions, in order to maintain transparency at the police station and the officers of the investigating agencies, the Union of India and the State Governments/Union Territories ought to have complied with the said directions.

In any case, we are not inclined to take a stricter action at this stage. However, we grant three months' time, by way of last chance, to the Union of India and all the State Governments/Union Territories to comply with the directions issued by this Court.

It is disheartening to note that insofar as Union of India is concerned, out of seven investigating agencies no steps of sincere nature have been taken in case of four investigating agencies.

We direct the Union of India also to comply with the aforesaid directions in respect of its agencies prior to the aforesaid date and file an affidavit of compliance, prior to 18.07.2023.

In case the Union of India does not comply with the aforesaid directions and does not file an affidavit, as aforesaid, the Secretary (Home), Union of India, shall remain personally present before the Court on the next date of hearing, to show cause as to why an action for committing contempt should not be taken against them.

The matter came up on 28-07-2023 and it was posted to 22.08.2023. That's where it stands as of now, while according to the ET report, the CBIC is actively on the job of procuring CC TV cameras.

Next time somebody is summoned to a GST office, maybe he will find a big notice, "Smile, you are on camera"!

Until Next week


 RECENT DISCUSSION(S) POST YOUR COMMENTS
   
 
Sub: Posters in Office

CIC has ordered for posters regarding Information Officers, their Appellate Authorities etc. under RTI Act
Vigilance posters are required to be posted regarding the details to whom the complaint can be launched.
Posters regarding swatch bharat are required to be posted
Posters regarding facilities for Divyang persons need to be posted
Posters on Women's Safety Committe needs to be posted
Posters on availability of cameras needs to be posted.
In this maze of posters, one is bound to get lost

Posted by CESTAT Hyderabad
 

TIOL Tube Latest

Shri N K Singh, recipient of TIOL FISCAL HERITAGE AWARD 2023, delivering his acceptance speech at Fiscal Awards event held on April 6, 2024 at Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi.


Shri Ram Nath Kovind, Hon'ble 14th President of India, addressing the gathering at TIOL Special Awards event.