The SC has recently issued a notice to the Delhi government in a petition filed against the Delhi government’s order to install CCTV cameras in school classrooms and make the images accessible in real time to parents of children studying in schools. The petition has been filed on the grounds that it violates the right to privacy and leads to stalking and voyeurism. The petition also contends that the installation of CCTV in classrooms will result in psychological pressure and trauma for adolescents.
CCTV surveillance in schools and public spaces in Delhi.
Upon learning of the incidents of a murder of a 7-year-old boy in Ryan International (Gurgaon) and the rape of a 5-year-old boy in a school in Delhi, the Government of Delhi in September 2017 directed all public and private schools from Delhi. to install CCTV cameras covering the entire school premises including classrooms.
In January 2018, it was reported that The Delhi government had led the CCTV installation process. The cameras will start in three months. In April 2018, the Delhi government sanctioned. Rs 800 crore for CCTV installation in Delhi.
This is not the first time that the Delhi government’s decision to install CCTV cameras in schools has been questioned. In July 2018, Daniel George filed a PIL at the Delhi HC, seeking direction from the Delhi government to file its plans to install more than 1.4 lakh of CCTV cameras in government schools; The petitioner questioned the rationale behind the government’s decision and expressed concern that, in the absence of any regulatory oversight, indiscriminate distribution of CCTV images would occur. In response, the Delhi government stated thatThe CCTV recording would be password protected and the password would only be given to parents. In September 2018, the Delhi HC dismissed the petition, rejecting the privacy argument because nothing private was done in the classrooms, and that privacy and security concerns needed to be balanced.
A controversial issue is the lack of a standard operating procedure (SOP) to access, control and handle data in the case of CCTV cameras installed by public and private authorities. In May 2018, following complaints by Congress of irregularities in the Delhi government’s bidding process related to the commissioning of CCTV cameras, Delhi Deputy Governor Ajay Baijal constituted a Panel to write an SOP for CCTV cameras.; the Delhi government had criticized this move, arguing that any CCTV installation in the Indian capital would replicate the SOP model of the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC). Later, the government of Delhi. announced that NDMC, which had been installing CCTV cameras in residential neighborhoods for the safety of citizens, had stopped the installation of CCTV.
The Delhi government’s CCTV camera installation can be traced to the Aam Admi Party (AAP) Manifesto for Delhi General Election 2015, where AAP proposed to install 10-15 lakh CCTV cameras for women’s safety. When the Delhi government announced the installation of CCTV cameras in school classrooms in its 2015 budget, the senior leader of BJP, Vijay Jolly, condemned the decision as “spying” on teachers.
Constitutionality of the installation of CCTV cameras in classrooms.
The petition in the present case has questioned the installation of CCTV cameras in classrooms. For the government’s decision to face the privacy challenge, it will have to meet the test set out in the Puttaswamy judgment, that is, the measure must be supported by legislation (legality), necessary to achieve a state objective (necessity) and proportional to the objective to be achieved (requirement of proportionality); It seems difficult for the government to meet this test because any crime against children is more likely to be committed in isolated spaces in schools (to avoid detection and witnesses to the crime) rather than in classrooms that are generally not empty. during school hours. Bullying is also more likely to take place outside of the classroom, for example on a playground. However, this does not preclude the possibility that incidents of corporal punishment or humiliation of a student by the teacher may occur in a classroom, or that crimes against a child may be committed in an empty classroom.
Even if there is a legitimate government concern that, in the absence of video surveillance, crimes may be committed in the classroom, the decision to install CCTV cameras must be balanced against the other fundamental rights in question, namely privacy and the right to Freedom of expression and expression of children and teachers. A study conducted in 2008 by the Association of Teachers and Teachers (ATL) in the UK. they found that some teachers were opposed to general supervision of staff and preferred that video surveillance be disabled in classrooms so that teachers would not feel conscious while teaching. CCTV cameras in schools can also make teachers unable to express their opinions freely if they feel they are under surveillance, this will have a severe impact on the dissemination of ideas. It is also conceivable that a The personality of the child will be restricted if they are constantly under surveillance.; a parent may be able to impose their own ideas on their children and prevent them from interacting with students of another gender or community. Schools must allow children to develop as individuals, which may not be possible if supervised by parents and school authorities, when children follow school rules and regulations.
The fact that in limited circumstances, such as when a classroom is empty, a crime can be committed against a child in the classroom, cannot be a reason to install CCTV cameras and provide live information to parents. By the same logic, a crime can also be committed in an empty school bathroom, does this mean that the government must also install audio recording devices in school bathrooms to prevent crime? A less intrusive measure to protect children in such cases would be to ensure that classrooms or spaces in schools that are not under video surveillance (for example, bathrooms) are closed outside of school hours.
Surveillance in school classrooms in other countries.
News reports indicate that Facial recognition cameras have been installed. in classrooms at Hangzhou No. 11 Secondary School in China, which analyzes the faces of students in a classroom every 30 seconds to determine if the child is attentive in class; the results are available along with the children’s names to the teacher to help them assess student attention; such surveillance has been denounced by the students of the school.
Last year in France, a private school run by Catholics proposed that its students wear Bluetooth tracking devices to allow teachers to instantly take attendance and keep track of whether a student was absent from school; the school proposed to fine students who forgot or misplaced the tracking device.
The debate about ensuring safety in school classrooms through surveillance technology in the United States is motivated by Recent incidents of school shooting.; It is not clear, however, whether the cameras are also intended to be installed inside classrooms. States like Texas, West Virginia, and Georgia allow Installation of CCTV cameras in special education classrooms. to enable the detection of violence against children with special disabilities in cases where they cannot report the abuse. Under the Texas law, a video recording installed in a special education classroom is confidential and can be viewed only if there is a Report “abuse, neglect or sexual assault” as defined in the Texas State Family Code. In addition, there is an obligation to inform the people who are being recorded and if the video shows the images of children (apart from the person suspected of being a victim of abuse), these images must be redacted.
One could argue that Texas law is a model worth emulating for the Delhi government, that is, instead of making video recording of classrooms available to parents at all times, the government should restrict the accessibility of the CCTV images collected and make them available only during legal proceedings. However, the problem with this approach is that in the absence of data protection law in India, there is a possibility that this data will fall into the wrong hands and be misused.
According to the Personal Data Protection Bill in India, “Guardian Data Trustees” (which include the State) are prohibited from profiling, tracking or performing any other processing of personal data that may cause significant harm to the child; significant damage means “damage that has an aggravated effect taking into account the nature of the personal data being processed, the impact, continuity, persistence or irreversibility of the damage”; This can include psychological damage due to constant CCTV surveillance. The installation of CCTV in classrooms can be distinguished from the installation of CCTV cameras in public spaces such as public transportation systems; in the latter case, the CCTV images of a person are limited, which is not true for CCTV surveillance of a child in a classroom.
The government must be wary of the privacy and data protection challenges involved and, without any comprehensive study on the benefits of installing CCTV cameras in classrooms, refrain from such movement.
Devika Agarwal writes on technology policy and has a Master of Laws from Cambridge.
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