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Bombay HC: CCTV in private property without residents’ consent illegal

The Bombay High Court ruled that installing CCTV cameras outside an apartment without consent from the flat’s resident is illegal, Live Law reports. The judge, Justice SJ Kathawalla, agreed with the plaintiffs’ argument that their privacy was being violated. “In my view, since admittedly Plaintiffs 2 to 5 are residing in [flats in a floor where the defendant does not live], no one has a right to invade their privacy,” Kathawalla said in the order. While the order does not specifically mention the recent Supreme Court judgement on the right to privacy being fundamental, this is a key case where that right has been affirmed in the months after that judgement was issued.

ReadWhat to expect from the Srikrishna Data Protection Bill (ET reports that the committee’s report is due by the end of this month, contradicting reports last week that it would be out on Monday)

Case background

In this case, a co-owner of a Colaba apartment building installed CCTV cameras on a higher floor where another owner and tenants stayed. The co-owner alleged that the residents were violating a small claims court’s judgement by sub-letting their flats to others. The plaintiffs were also cut off from accessing the terrace, where the building’s lift control room and water tankers were situated. So they sued to get the CCTV cameras removed, and the High Court’s judgement has allowed them to do that.

CCTV on private property

In the UK, there are stiff penalties and legal liabilities associated with installing CCTV cameras on private property that include footage from elsewhere. There are protections in place to protect people from CCTV surveillance when those cameras are owned and operated privately. Australia has similar protections against incidental privacy breaches by private citizens operating CCTV cameras.

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