SC issues notice to Delhi govt., says CCTV in schools may impact ‘Privacy of Students’

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to the Delhi government on a plea challenging a plan to install CCTV cameras in schools in the national capital citing an adverse impact on the privacy of students, especially girls. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked the Delhi government why it should not immediately stay the plan to install 1.46 lakh CCTVs in classrooms and labs of government schools. The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Amber Tickoo, a 20-year-old law student at the National Law University, Delhi.

 Advocates Jai Dehadrai and Srishti Kumar, representing Tickoo, told the court that the decision on installation of CCTV cameras in schools will adversely impact the privacy of students, especially girls, and female teachers. The decision on CCTV installation was taken in an emergency meeting on September 11, 2017 by the Minister of Education purportedly on the grounds of incidents of child abuse in Delhi schools. The government had made it mandatory for public-aided schools to follow the decision.

“There is a clear violation of the right to privacy of the students including young girls as also the teachers by subjecting them to constant surveillance,” the petitioner said. The advocates added that there was a hugely disconcerting effect that constant surveillance has on teachers and students. The petitioner requested the court to set aside the Delhi government’s decision on installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in government schools and providing online access to parents of the CCTV footage.

The petitioner’s counsel said the decision was taken without undertaking any research and study into the ramifications of such a move. The provision of data security as also the psychological impact of the installation on young children was not considered, they said.

Further, no consent of the parents or the teachers was considered before taking the decision, the plea said.

On December 11 2017, it was decided to provide online access to parents to see their child’s classroom. The petitioner said every action that a student undertakes will be oriented towards projecting a certain image to parents and the larger community which has access to the footage. “Surveillance on teachers and children will have a chilling effect on the speech and expression of the individuals inside the classroom,” the plea said.

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The petitioner said the nature of learning itself is such that people allow themselves to experiment with their own personality and the pedagogy invites all participants into a transformational relationship with themselves, others and the curriculum. Therefore, CCTVs will have a chilling effect on the growth and development of children, the petitioner said.

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