Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, July 20
In virtually a Chief Justice-versus-Chief Justice case, a former Chief Justice and Judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Justice NK Sodhi, today moved the HC against the installation of “surveillance cameras” at the residence of the present Chief Justice.
Living opposite the official residence of Chief Justice Ravi Shanker Jha in Sector 4, Karnataka High Court’s former Chief Justice Sodhi claimed that the high-resolution, infra-red cameras installed on the “tall poles” violated his right to privacy.
His counsel Rajiv Atma Ram, Arjun Partap Atma Ram and Brijesh Khosla contended: “The cameras can record persons and cars and other vehicles coming to, leaving, going in, and going out of the petitioner's residence; they can look into the front and the side portion of the petitioner's built-up house. Thus, there is an invasion of privacy of all residents of (his) house number 36, Sector 4, Chandigarh….”
The petition against the Union of India, UT, Chandigarh, Adviser to the UT Administrator, the Chandigarh Police, the High Court and the CRPF Director-General was placed before the Division Bench of Justice Jaswant Singh and Justice Sant Parkash this morning. The matter has been disposed of but detailed order was not yet available.
UT additional standing counsel Namit Kumar, during the course of the hearing, placed before the Bench an “inquiry report” in a sealed cover. A communication by HC Registrar-General Sanjiv Berry to Justice Sodhi was also placed before the Bench. It said spot inspection was carried out after Justice Sodhi’s letter was sent to the UT DGP for information and necessary action. The DGP's office subsequently said the cameras were installed to "secure the protected persons from all possible apprehensions of threats in accordance with the provisions of the Yellow Book”. These cameras did not cover the houses on the opposite side of the street and only covered area up to the road berm of house number 34 and 36. There was no trespass or breach into privacy of house number 36.
Justice NK Sodhi’s plea
- A notice, required to be displayed for the general public’s information that the area is under CCTV surveillance, was not put up
- A CCTV camera cannot be located at a place where it collects information which invades an individual’s privacy
- The Chief Justice is well-protected at his residence, while moving in his vehicle and at the High Court
- Even during the peak of terrorism, this kind of security was not there for the Chief Justice
- For other judges, such security is not available; CCTV cameras cannot prevent an untoward incident
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