New Delhi, Apr 5 (PTI) 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 crime scene, to strengthen the rule of law, the Supreme Court has said.

The apex court 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 timeline given by the panel.

A bench of justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and R F Nariman, while noting that law and order was a state subject, directed the MHA to forthwith set up a central oversight body (COB) to implement the plan of action prepared by the committee.

“Thus, we are of the considered view that notwithstanding the fact that as of now investigating agencies in India are not fully equipped and prepared for the use of videography, the time is ripe that steps are taken to introduce videography in investigation, particularly for crime scene as desirable and acceptable best practice as suggested by the committee of the MHA to strengthen the rule of Law,” the bench said in its order.

It said that COB may consider the suggestions given by senior advocate Arun Mohan, who was assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the matter, that funding for this project may be initially by the Centre to the extent possible and a central server may be set up.

“The COB will be responsible for further planning and implementation of use of videography. We direct the Central Government to give full support to the COB and place necessary funds at its disposal,” the bench said.

“We also direct that the COB may issue appropriate directions so as to ensure that use of videography becomes a reality in a phased manner and in first phase of implementation by July 15, 2018 crime scene videography must be introduced at least at some places as per viability and priority determined by the COB,” the court said.

The bench also referred to a judgement delivered by the apex court in 2015 in which it was directed that CCTV cameras be installed in all police stations and prisons with a view to check human rights abuse.

“There is need for a further direction that in every state, an oversight mechanism be created whereby an independent committee can study the CCTV camera footages and periodically publish report of its observations. Let the COB issue appropriate instructions in this regard at the earliest,” it said.

The bench further said that COB may compile information regarding compliance in the next three months and submit a report to the court.

It said that compliance of its directions be ensured by the secretary of MHA and home secretaries of all the states and an affidavit of progress achieved be filed by the COB on or before July 31.

The court has fixed the matter for further consideration on August 1.

It agreed with the report of committee that videography of crime scene during investigation was of “immense value” in improving the administration of criminal justice.

The court noted that the committee had considered several issues, including the present infrastructure and usage, concerns and problems raised by various states for use of videography during investigations, admissibility of electronic evidence in absence of certificate under the Evidence Act, operational difficulties, lack of training, funding and forensic facilities.

“The committee observed that though crime scene videography was a ‘desirable and acceptable best practice’, the mandatory videography required major issues being addressed. Videography may be done on ‘Best Effort’ basis. The timeline should be different for different states and the central investigating agencies,” the bench noted in its order.

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 in which a decision was taken to constitute a committee of experts to facilitate and prepare a roadmap for use of videography in crime scene and propose a standard operating procedure (SOP).

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.