In a remarkable decision aimed at ensuring greater transparency and accountability in policing, the Karnataka High Court has ordered that body cameras must be provided to all officers authorized to arrest a person.
This milestone ruling was passed by Justice Suraj Govindaraj on June 24. As per the order, “The Director-General of Police shall endeavour to make available body cameras to all the police officers entitled to arrest a person so that the manner of arrest is recorded by such body cameras,” the court stated.
The decision also stipulated that these body cameras should be equipped with a microphone to record conversations and that both video and audio recordings should be retained for at least a year.
The ruling came in the backdrop of a case involving a law student, Surpit Ishwar Divate. Divate, who was embroiled in a dispute related to a mortgage deed, was publicly arrested and paraded in handcuffs, which is a breach of standard operating procedure unless specifically justified.
Highlighting the conditions for handcuffing an accused, the court noted, “It is only under extreme circumstances that handcuffing of an accused can be resorted to. When such handcuffing is made, the arresting officer is required to record the reasons for handcuffing, which would have to sustain the scrutiny of the Court.”
In light of this breach of protocol, the court awarded a compensation of ₹2 lakhs to Divate, payable by the state within six weeks. The court, however, stopped short of awarding the ₹25 lakhs sought by Divate.
Reinforcing the guidelines for the use of handcuffs, the court directed that no person – be they undertrial, accused, or convict – shall be handcuffed unless the reason for doing so is specified in the case diary. The court also emphasized that if any undertrial prisoners were handcuffed without prior permission, the concerned police officer would risk the handcuffing being declared illegal and potential disciplinary action.
In conclusion, the Karnataka High Court’s decision underscores the increasing importance of transparency and accountability in policing. It reflects a larger trend towards safeguarding human rights and dignity in criminal proceedings. The judgment further stresses the importance of balancing the powers of the police with the rights of the accused, a crucial aspect of a fair and just legal system.
The court will revisit this case on November 7 to verify compliance with these directives.
This decision follows a broader trend where body cameras are being seen as a useful tool in policing. Not only do they promise to reduce corruption among police personnel, but they also serve as a protective measure for the safety of citizens amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
As we wait to see the real-world implications of this ruling, the emphasis on accountability in law enforcement is indeed a positive step towards reinforcing trust in our institutions.