In a giant leap towards digitisation of criminal investigation, police in six major cities, including Delhi and Mumbai, will mandatorily conduct videography of a crime scene, the Centre has told the Supreme Court. Besides Delhi and Mumbai, the other cities where videography of crime scenes would be mandatory are Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Chandigarh. The top court had in April asked the Centre to prepare a plan for introducing videography in criminal investigations to strengthen the rule of law.
Taking the lead, the Gujarat Police has set up a central server which is connected to a specially designed application called "Mobile Pocket Cop". The app can be downloaded on a cell phone provided to every police station for use in an investigation.
A bench of justices U U Lalit and D Y Chandrachud sought a reply in four weeks from home secretary, Gujarat government, on the aspect of testing of another app developed by the Bureau of Police Research and Development as proof of concept.
"Since sufficient progress on the front has been made by Gujarat, we would expect the authorities to develop a comprehensive and user friendly model which can then be used by all other states," the bench said while issuing a notice to the Gujarat home secretary. Advocate Shirin Khajuria, appearing for the Centre, said as per compliance of the court's earlier order a central oversight body (COB) has been constituted and a special secretary (internal security) has filed an affidavit in this regard.
She said the first meeting of COB was convened on May 24 to discuss the implementation of the plan for use of videography at a crime scene and other issues. The affidavit filed by the Centre said a plan for crime scene videography would be implemented in phases. In the first phase, the plan will be implemented in six major cities, it stated.
The Centre has sought another six months from the court for full-fledged implementation of the plan. On April 5, the Supreme Court had said the investigating agencies in India are not fully equipped and prepared for the use of videography but time was "ripe" that steps are taken to introduce videography in probe, particularly for a crime scene, to strengthen the rule of law
The apex court had said this while approving the 'centrally driven plan of action' prepared by a committee, constituted by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), on use of videography in police investigation, and the time-line given by the panel.
It had said since law and order was a state subject, the MHA forthwith set up a COB to implement the plan of action prepared by the committee. The COB will be responsible for further planning and implementation of use of videography, and it may issue appropriate directions so as to ensure that use of videography becomes a reality in a phased manner by July 15, 2018, the court had said.
It had directed the COB may compile information regarding compliance in the next three months and submit a report to the court. The Centre had last year informed the top court that the issue of video recording of crime scenes was discussed by the union home secretary with the chief secretaries of the states. During this, a decision was taken to constitute a committee of experts to facilitate and prepare a roadmap for use of videography at a crime scene and propose a standard operating procedure (SOP), it said.
On February 4, the apex court had held that the requirement of a certificate to make an electronic evidence admissible is not mandatory "wherever interest of justice so justifies".
The top court's clarification on Section 65B of Indian Evidence Act, which deals with admissibility of electronic evidence in court proceedings, will have an impact on criminal trials, where an increasing number of call details records, CCTV footage, mobile video recordings and CDs are being relied upon.