CCTV in Delhi schools: Supreme Court refuses to stay installation, live streaming of footage

CCTV in Delhi schools: Supreme Court refuses to stay installation, live streaming of footage

Murali Krishnan

Supreme Court today refused to stay installation of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras and streaming of CCTV footage in schools administered by Delhi government. A Bench of CJI Ranjan Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose declined interim relief and also dismissed the writ petition.

The Bench of CJI Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna had issued notice to the Government of Delhi in a PIL filed by Amber Tickoo, a law student at National Law University, Delhi in May this year.

Filed through advocate Manisha Ambwani, the petitioner has contended that  the installation of CCTV cameras in classrooms would  violate the Fundamental Right to Privacy as laid down in the Justice Puttaswamy case.

The Delhi Government’s decision would allow persons with a valid usernament and password to access the live feed of the CCTV cameras in classrooms. The petitioner has argued that this could seriously jeopardize the safety and security of the children.

“The said installation of CCTV cameras and providing live feed of the same to anyone with a user id and password jeopardizes the safety and security of young girls as also the female teachers and shall directly give rise to the incidents of stalking and voyeurism.”

Further, it is contended that CCTV surveillance subjects individuals to the gaze of people they do not want to be watched or observed by. It is specifically intrusive for young girls and subjects them to unique harm. In order to buttress this argument, the petitioner had cited the example of how such invasive culture would violate dignity, when women go through their menstrual cycles.

The petition notes that girls at that age are usually unsure of how they are expected to handle their reproductive health. It is natural to be baffled at the sudden changes the body goes through and that girls experience unique social pressure. Given these concerns, the petitioner has argued that it is preposterous to have those private actions subjected to scrutiny of the community. The same would amount to a gross violation of the right to dignity of the children as well as the female teachers, states the petitioner.

Another issue raised by the petitioner relates to data protection. The plan of the government is devoid of any safety measures with respect to the storage of the recordings made from these CCTV cameras, stated the plea. The unsecured data will be prone to hacking and is another factor that will endanger the security of the children and teachers.

The petitioner has also attacked the CCTV policy as likely to violate the right to free speech and expression. It is the petitioner’s case that surveillance on teachers and children will have a chilling effect on the speech and expression of the individuals inside the classroom.

While this is the case, the petitioner contends that the decision was taken without undertaking any research into the ramifications of such CCTV installations, without consideration of the provision of data security as also the psychological impact of the said installations on young children. Further, no consent of the parents, or the teachers was considered before taking the impugned decision, the petition reads.

In addition to the security risks, the petition has also alleged financial irregularities on the part of the Delhi government in procuring these CCTV cameras.

The petitioner has, therefore, prayed that the decision of the Delhi government dated September 11, 2017 to install CCTV in schools in Delhi be set aside.

[Read Order]

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