Cannot discourage installation of AI traffic cameras over allegations of lack of transparency, corruption: Kerala High Court

The Court's observations came on a judgment dismissing a plea moved by two persons seeking exemption from wearing helmets while riding two-wheelers.
surveillance cam, kerala hc
surveillance cam, kerala hc

Installation of Artificial Intelligence cameras (AI cameras) on roads to detect violations of traffic rules, is an innovative step and it should not be discouraged over mere allegations of corruption or lack of transparency on the government's part in installing such cameras, the Kerala High Court recently observed [Mohanan VV & Anr. v State of Kerala & Ors.].

Single-judge Justice PV Kunhikrishnan clarified that these allegations are matters that are to be dealt with separately but whatever other criticisms the new initiative may be facing, AI cameras are an innovative method to detect traffic violations.

"There may be objections regarding the transparency in the decision making by which the cameras and other equipment are purchased. It appears that, even allegations of corruption are raised. That is a different matter which is to be dealt separately. For that reason, an innovative venture initiated by the Motor Vehicle department may not be discouraged. Since it is introduced recently, there may be some technical defects and lapses. Of course, that is to be rectified. But in this new era of technology, installation of AI surveillance cameras is an innovative step to detect the violation of the road rule," the Court said.

The installation of AI cameras in the State was done under a project envisioned by the Transport Department called "Automated Traffic Enforcement System for Safe Kerala".

The judge noted that the initiative had faced no criticism from even the opposition parties and opined that the State government deserves appreciation for introducing such an innovative system.

"An innovative system is introduced in the State to detect the violation of the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act and Rules by installing AI surveillance Cameras on the roads. We have to appreciate the government and its Motor Vehicle department for introducing the same. There is no criticism from any part against the installation of AI Cameras, even from opposition parties in the state. They also wholeheartedly accept the new venture," the Court observed.

The Court's observations came on a plea moved by two persons seeking exemption from wearing helmets while riding two wheelers.

They claimed they had medical issues that made it difficult to wear the helmets and said that they were constrained to approach the court urgently due to the installation of the AI cameras.

At the outset of the judgment itself the Court quoted a twitter post from Hyderabad City Police which read "Don't wear helmet because of police. Wear it to meet your family again"

"What a heart-breaking message", the Court said.

After referring to the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988, the Kerala Motor Vehicles Rules and the law laid down in other judgments, the Court held that there can be no exemptions from wearing helmets while driving or riding two-wheelers.

"Wearing of helmet while riding a two wheeler is to protect the life of the citizen. Protection of the life of the citizen is the duty of the State. Therefore, there cannot be any exemption to the petitioners in wearing helmets, stating that they are suffering from some illness. There is no fundamental right to a citizen to use two wheelers without following the rules of the land," the Court said.

Pointing out that the petitioners can use public transportation, the Court dismissed the petition.

"The petitioners can’t evade the AI Cameras by getting an exemption. Therefore, the prayers in this writ petition cannot be entertained," the judgment stated.

The petitioners were represented by advocates John Joseph and Angel Gloria VS.

Government Pleader BS Syamantak appeared for the State.

Interestingly, a division bench of the Court headed by Chief Justice SV Bhatti is currently seized of a public interest litigation (PIL) petition moved by Congress member and leader of the opposition in the Kerala assembly, VD Satheesan, along with fellow Congress leader and Member of Legislative Assembly Ramesh Chennithala, alleging corruption and favoritism in the award of tenders for the installation of AI cameras 

The division bench had, on June 20, directed the State government to halt payment of instalments for the project.

[Read Judgment]

Mohanan VV & Anr. v State of Kerala & Ors..pdf
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