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Satyendar Jain video ‘leak’: What courts & jail manual say about CCTV cameras inside prison

Delhi Prison Rules say work sheds and high-security enclosures, including cells, walls surrounding prison & staff offices, are kept under CCTV surveillance for 'monitoring purposes'.

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New Delhi: A series of ‘leaked’ video clips of Satyendar Jain, jailed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and minister in the Delhi government, getting a massage inside his cell in Tihar and eating food from outside, has raised several questions over why there are CCTV cameras installed within prison cells, who monitors the footage and whether it is a “breach of privacy”.

Jain, the minister of health, home, power, PWD, industries, urban development and water, is in prison in connection with a money laundering case.

According to the Delhi Prison Rules of 2018, jail premises — whether inside work sheds, wards, high security enclosures, which includes cells, the walls surrounding the prison, barracks and wards, or even the offices of jail staff — are kept under CCTV surveillance for “monitoring purposes”.

The high-security cells, one of which Jain is lodged in, are kept under surveillance too, in order to ensure that there is no threat to the inmate, or the inmate does not try to harm themselves or anyone else outside, sources in Tihar’s prison administration told ThePrint.

“Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras or similar devices shall be installed in work sheds, kitchens, hospitals, main gate, interview rooms, high security enclosures and in any other place so determined by Inspector General (Prisons) and in the premises of the barracks for monitoring purposes. In other words, every place of prison premises be covered through CCTV except where privacy is required,” the rules say.

Places like toilets and bathrooms on prison premises come under spaces “where privacy is required”.

Moreover, in order to prevent the occurrence of custodial violence, suicides, and human rights abuse inside prisons, the Supreme Court of India in 2015 had also directed all prisons to install CCTV cameras, making it mandatory to monitor all areas where inmates lived. These areas included spaces inside barracks, private cells, along with common areas like the mess and kitchen.

“CCTV cameras will help go a long way in preventing the violation of human rights of those incarcerated in jails. It will also help the authorities in maintaining proper discipline among the inmates and taking corrective measures wherever abuses are noticed,” the court had said.

Speaking to ThePrint, former law officer of Tihar, Sunil Gupta said, “All the high security cells are under watch through CCTV cameras. There are clear instructions from the Supreme Court on the same. This is to ensure the security of the prisoners. These are prisoners who either face threat from others, or they themselves are a threat.”

The jail rules, however, also make it clear that every inmate must be informed at the time of being admitted in prison that “all common areas are or may be under CCTV surveillance for security reasons.”

Also read: Overdose of Satyendar Jain clips? Some in Delhi BJP want MCD campaign to focus on party’s work

Ensuring safety, transparency’

The power to determine the locations where cameras need to be installed resides with the jail administration, the rules say.

“It is the prerogative of the jail administration, from the Director General to the officers under him, to carry out a study of the prison premises and recommend spots where cameras are required. The walls, from where things are often thrown inside the jail, are under surveillance. The common areas, the cells, where there is a need for jail authorities to keep a watch, cameras are installed,” Neeraj Kumar, former director general, Tihar, told ThePrint.

A senior jail officer said the cameras are essential for “prevention of any harm to both inmates and prison staff”.

“To ensure safety and transparency, the cameras are installed periodically. If it is a vulnerable prisoner, who may harm himself, or an aggressive one, who may harm someone else, they need to be kept under surveillance. Moreover, there are scuffles that happen inside cells, wards, that too need to be kept under watch. Whatever happens inside jail is all monitored in the control room,” the officer said.

Where is the footage stored and who has access to it?

Jain had earlier filed a contempt plea against the Enforcement Directorate (ED), accusing them of leaking CCTV footage of his prison cell to the media, despite an undertaking given in court to not leak any video of him in Tihar Jail. He later withdrew the plea.

The ED also told a Delhi court that it did not leak the video from jail.

A leaked CCTV video of jailed Delhi minister and AAP leader Satyendar Jain purportedly getting a massage inside Tihar Jail | ANI file photo
A leaked CCTV video of jailed Delhi minister and AAP leader Satyendar Jain purportedly getting a massage inside Tihar Jail | ANI file photo

But who has custody of this footage? According to the jail rules, all CCTV footage is digitally stored for a period of at least one month, but in case there is a case pending in court concerning the footage, it will be kept till the disposal of the case or matter, or as required by orders of court of law.

The rules also say that the access to video footage shall be “secured and shall be accessed only with the permission of the officer not below the Rank of the superintendent of prison.”

“The responsibility of maintenance of CCTV cameras & footage shall also be of the Superintendent of the Prison. The same shall not be accessible to any person not authorised in this regard,” it adds.

According to submissions made by ED, for the said leak, “many Tihar officers were suspended”.

“The LG (lieutenant-governor) has set up an inquiry…. There are a lot of transfers, including some top officers. To presume leak on our behalf is completely preposterous,” the ED’s counsel reportedly told the court.

(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)

Also read: ‘Shahi darbar’ in Tihar — BJP targets AAP over 3rd leaked clip of jailed minister Satyendar Jain


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