The Delhi Police, in response to two Right to Information requests filed by MediaNama about its usage of drones to film protestors of the Citizenship Amendment Act, has given the following responses:

1. The North District division, in response to the first RTI, said that the police of Police Station Kotwali in Red Fort, did not use drones “for videography,” on December 19, 2019, to record protestors. This, despite a PTI report from the same day, claiming that the Delhi Police used drones to keep track of people protesting against CAA, who had gathered at Red Fort in Old Delhi (which falls under the North District) to Shaheed Park near ITO.

MediaNama’s take: Our RTI query was not specifically about the North District of the Delhi Police using drones, but about the usage of drones by the Delhi Police, as an institution. One division’s denial, doesn’t necessarily mean that police from other divisions did not use drones to record protestors in Delhi. It’s also not clear whether any other government departments were using drones to film protestors, or even if the central government was using drones.

2. The North District division, in response to the second RTI said that no drone was used for videography by “the police of North District,” on December 18, 2019 to record protestors. Note that the first response specifies a particular particular police station, while this talks about all police stations in the North District.

MediaNama’s take: Even if the North District of the Delhi Police wasn’t using drones, it’s doesn’t mean that other divisions of the Delhi Police might not have been using drones. Secondly, it’s also not clear whether any other government departments – whether Central government, or from Delhi Police – were using drones to film protestors.

3. The North East division of the Delhi Police in response to the first RTI said that “no such data is being maintained in the district”. However, another PTI report had claimed that drones were indeed used in the Seelampur area, which falls under the North East District, after protests against the Act in Seelampur had reportedly taken a violent turn.

As per current regulations around drone usage, a clearance is required before a drone takes off. It’s not clear why this division of the Delhi Police doesn’t maintain a copy of the clearance orders.

We had filed 2 separate RTIs with the Delhi Police. The first RTI cited a PTI report from December 19, 2019, while the second one relied on a DNA India report from December 18. The RTIs got transferred to the following jurisdictions of the Delhi Police: North, North East, West, Rohini, Dwarka, South West, and East. Apart from the former 2 districts, the other districts claimed that our RTI did not relate to their jurisdictions, and disposed them. Both the RTIs did not get forwarded to the following Delhi Police districts: Central, IGI Airport, EOW, Metro, New Delhi, North West, Outer, Railway, Shahdara, South, and South East. 

What our questions were about: As pointed out above, the questions we had raised in the RTI were neither about a particular division of the Delhi Police using drones, nor were they limited to the Red Fort area, or the Seelampur area. Some of the questions we had asked:

  • The authorisation letters for the Delhi Police to record protestors
  • The size/amount/length of the captured footage
  • How long recorded footage is to be stored, and where
  • If these recordings were fed into a facial recognition system
  • If the footage will be shared with the Home Ministry, or any other third-parties.

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