HC asks Delhi govt to file SOP on plea against CCTVs in classrooms

The Delhi Parents Association and Government School Teachers Association's counsel Advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai argued that installing CCTVs inside the class may impact the children mentally.
Representative Image
Representative Image

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Friday asked the AAP government to file a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on a plea challenging it's decision of installing CCTV cameras inside classrooms of government-run schools, for the court to hear the matter on July 18.

Terming the scheme "premature", a division bench led by Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma said that the matter will be heard only after the SOP is submitted by the government.

"It is still not even in the nascent stage. It's still under consideration...It is premature as of today. As soon as the SOP is drawn up, we will see," the bench said.

Quoting a Gurugram school murder case of 2017 in which a seven-year-old was murdered by a grade 11 student and the act caught in a camera outside the school's washroom, the bench said that installation of such cameras in schools is important for the safety of children.

The Delhi Parents Association and Government School Teachers Association's counsel Advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai argued that installing CCTVs inside the class may impact the children mentally.

In places like labs and classrooms privacy is expected, the counsel contended.

The plea challenges two cabinet decisions dated September 11, 2017, and December 11, 2017, passed by the Delhi government on making provision for the installation of CCTV cameras inside classrooms of government-run schools and live-streaming of such video footage to parents.

The counsel contended that the government will be live-streaming the said data to third parties.

"Parent 'A' may not be comfortable with parent 'B' looking at the footage of data of their children. There is no consent sought from parents," he said.

Observing that the impugned circulars of the Delhi Government only mention the words "online access", the bench said that "online access is different than live streaming."

"Suppose instead of having a physical inspection of the school, it can be virtual. To show that look this is my classroom, this is my playground, etc," the court said.

Earlier, the respondent had argued that its decision is not absolute and would always be subject to reasonable restrictions by the state like any other fundamental right.

"It is submitted that in balancing the interest of the State to ensure the safety and protection of the students along with the right of privacy in a classroom, it is to be borne in mind the extent to which the expectation of privacy would be reasonable in a public classroom," the government had told the court.

The government had further contended that the decision of installing cameras in classrooms of all its schools is to ensure the safety and security of children, especially in light of the rampant incidents of sexual abuse and bullying.

The defendant had added that the decision was not only taken due to the spike in child abuse cases in 2017, but it was also in the pipeline for a long time.

The defendant further added that it is also to improve the teacher-learning processes for better learning outcomes.

"It is submitted that with the consent of the teachers some of the lecturers can be recorded for further dissemination and the recordings can also be used to analyse and provide feedback to the teachers to improve the teaching processes in order to ensure better understanding amongst the students," the government had stated.

On the other hand, the plaintiff had argued that the decision to install CCTV cameras inside classrooms, without obtaining specific consent from the students, their parents, or the teachers, is a gross violation of their fundamental right to privacy.

The parents association had opposed the idea of cross-sharing classroom footage with other parents or unauthorised third persons. They fear that such footage may be misused for morphing and dissemination on social media.

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