The Allahabad High Court on July 17 directed the forensic science laboratory in Lucknow to examine the CCTV footage of certain advocates misbehaving with a woman judge in Barabanki last year [State v Ritesh Mishra & Ors].
Upon discovering numerous unexplained and suspicious circumstances surrounding the CCTV footage, a bench of Justice Sangeeta Chandra and Justice Narendra Kumar Johari opined that there was a possibility that the footage might have been tampered with.
“This Court fails to understand that without there being any technical fault reported earlier, footage could be retrieved of only a few hours on each day. There is no report of any technician repairing the cameras. There is considerable doubt in the mind of this court that the CCTV footage have been tampered with/deleted,” the Court said.
Therefore, it directed the Senior Registrar to forward the CCTV footage provided by the Additional District Judge-I, Barabanki to the forensic laboratory in Lucknow and requested the director of the laboratory to conduct a thorough examination, particularly focusing on any potential deletion or tampering issues, and submit a report by the next date of hearing.
Last year, the court of civil judge Arpita Sahu, who was posted at Ramsanehighat in Barabanki, had referred a matter to the Allahabad High Court under Section 15(2) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.
In her complaint, judge Sahu had accused advocates Ritesh Mishra and Mohan Singh, both office bearers of the District Bar Association, of using offensive language towards her.
She had further alleged that their actions undermined the court's authority and disrupted the judicial proceedings.
Subsequently, during the investigation of the reference, the High Court had issued an order on October 17, 2022, instructing the ADJ in Barabanki to preserve all relevant CCTV footage, including the areas leading to the courtroom, for the period between September 6, 2022, and October 8, 2022.
On July 17, the High Court was informed that out of the 32 CCTV cameras installed in the court campus, only 14 were functional while the remaining 18 were non-operational.
The Court also observed that during September 19-21 and on September 24 and October 7, the CCTV cameras were operational only for specific time periods. However, on October 8, the cameras recorded footage throughout the day.
In light of the above, the Court noted that prima facie it looked the CCTV footage might have been tampered with and choose to direct forensic examination of the footage.
The matter will be heard next on August 4.
Advocates Virendra Kumar Shukla, Divyarth Singh Chauhan, Farooq Ayoob, Himanshu Suryavanshi, Lalta Prasad Misra and Rashmi Pandey represented the accused advocates.