Chennai: Holding that the chamber of a judge is also a “public office”, Justice S.M. Subramaniam posed a query to be answered by the registrar (administration) of the Madras high court as to what is the difficulty for the registrar (administration) in installing the CCTV camera in his chamber in spite of the fact that he himself informed him that the CCTV camera can be installed from and out of his chamber funds allotted or at his own cost?
Justice S.M. Subramaniam posed six more queries to be answered by the registrar (administration) and posted to March 15, for reporting compliance.
The judge said when the Supreme Court of India itself issued directions for installations of CCTV cameras inside the courts and at such important locations, court complexes, as may considered, appropriate with monitoring thereof in the chambers of the judges concerned, the Supreme Court categorically enumerated that ‘Such important locations of court complex as may be considered appropriate”.
While passing orders in a case relating to an alleged sexual harassment, he had in the opening paragraph directed the registrar (administration) to install CCTV cameras in his chambers within two weeks. It was unconnected with the parties to the concerned. The said direction was given by this court only to stand as an example and to install the CCTV cameras in his chamber.
The registrar (administration) also informed this court that no appeal has been filed by him against the opening directions given in the said order. This court thought it fit at the time of delivering the judgment that charity should begin at home, and install the CCTV camera, was of paramount importance on account of the current day developments and considering the growing crime rate in the country, more specifically, sexual harassment in work places against women, the judge added.
The judge said when his personal secretary enquired about the installation of CCTV cameras in his chamber and thereafter, the technical team from the Central Industrial Security Force headed by K.V.K. Sriram, senior commandant, visited his chambers along with his technical group and ascertained the tech feasibility and made an assurance to him that soon after the permission was granted by the registrar (administration) the CCTV camera would be installed in the chambers without any further delay. Two weeks, three weeks, four weeks lapsed. ‘Nothing happened is the painful situation’, the judge added.
The judge said this court would not go into the administrative reasons and the direction was only to install the CCTV camera in his chambers, which was also an official premises. Chamber of a judge was also a ‘public office’ and there cannot be any other interpretation other than this. Chambers of the high court judge was used as a court hall for conducting in-camera proceedings and to deal the administrative files, judicial orders and for dictation of judgments. Thus, the chambers of the judge was certainly the “public office” and there cannot be any other second opinion. When the chamber of a judge was a public office, then there cannot be any inference in respect of installation of CCTV camera and he felt that both for security purposes and to function transparently, such an action was initiated, the judge added.
The other six queries are : 1) Whether the copy of the order dated February 14, 2019, has been received by the registrar (administration) or not? 2) Whether the registrar (administration) is aware of the judgment of the Supreme court or not? 3) What all are the procedures adopted for furnishing and providing infrastructures and other facilities to the chambers of the judges and how much financial allotment is granted to each chamber of the judges? 4) What all are the furnishings, infrastructures, installations and facilities provided in the chambers of the judges and the expenditures already met by the high curt for providing such facilities to the chambers of the judges of the high court of Madras? 5) Even in the absence of judicial order, whether the judge has got powers to install CCTV camera in the interest of his own security as well as in the interest of justice as held by the supreme court? And public confidence in the judicial institution is of paramount importance. When courts are issuing certain directions to the government and to the other authorities in respect of public offices and more specifically, within the court premises to monitor the movements of the advocates, staff members and litigants, this court is of the humble opinion that nothing wrong in monitoring the judicial and administrative functions of the judges in their chambers as the judges chambers are also falling within the definition of “public office”.