In a significant blow to students’ privacy rights, the Supreme Court of India, earlier today, refused to stay the installation of CCTV cameras and streaming from them in Delhi government schools, Bar and Bench reported. The bench constituted CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose.
The PIL (available here) had been filed by Amber Tickoo, an NLU Delhi student on May 10. At that time, the SC had told the Delhi government to respond within six weeks. It is unclear what the Delhi government’s argument was. MediaNama has reached out to the government for clarification.
Why is installing CCTV cameras in classrooms a bad idea?
As we argued earlier this morning, this is a phenomenally bad idea:
- Classrooms aren’t public spaces either: Despite not being private, schools are not as public as a footpath: the expectation of relative privacy is what allows students the freedom to express themselves, make mistakes, and inculcate creativity and imagination. The Delhi government cannot assume that constant surveillance of every activity will improve the learning environment.
- Where is the Government’s accountability? Why isn’t there any regulation, or law to govern CCTVs in schools, or even in the city of Delhi? They haven’t been transparent about the consultation process either.
- How will this deter crime? The Delhi government hasn’t revealed how this is the best move to deter crime.
- How far does CCTV footage actually help? When the CCTV footage is mute, and available to parents for 15 minutes, thrice a day, how exactly then does a parent identify “bullying, corporal punishment, inadequate attention spans, teacher absenteeism and even student truancy”? The probability that parents will monitor their children exactly when an incident occurs is quite low. This real-time and in-person monitoring is the teacher’s job, and its oversight, the school and the government’s. Also, a mute CCTV feed is not a parenting bible.
- A repository of children’s video footage is a bad idea: We don’t know how this footage will be stored/secured, if there are any redressal mechanisms, and if/how these feeds will be monitored. MediaNama’s repeated queries to the Delhi government about this have gone unanswered. In any case, creating a massive repository of video footage of children is a gross move, and a violation of their privacy. In the absence of any legislative and judicial oversight, it can be easily abused. Access to this repository to the wrong people (read: paedophiles, kidnappers) will exacerbate crimes against children.