Madras High Court displeased with CCTV coverage at only 35 railway stations in Tamil Nadu even after the 2016 Swathi murder

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The Madras High Court on Wednesday, September 27 expressed displeasure over Southern Railway not having installed closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras / video surveillance system (VSS) in all 442 railway stations in Tamil Nadu even seven years after 24-year-old techie S. Swathi was hacked to death at Nungambakkam railway station in Chennai on June 24, 2016.

Chief Justice S.V. Gangapurwala and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu wrote that the inordinate delay “demonstrates the total apathy on the part of the administration towards the security system in railway stations,” and directed Southern Railway to come up with a reasonable timeline within which all railway stations in Tamil Nadu would be provided with CCTV surveillance.

The observations were made while passing interim orders on a suo motu public interest litigation petition that had been taken up by the High Court in 2016 after the murder of the techie in broad daylight supposedly due to unrequited love. The Railway Protection Force filed a status report before the court on Wednesday listing out the steps taken so far.

The status report indicated that CCTV/VVS had been established so far in 35 railway stations in Tamil Nadu and that it would be provided in the other 407 railway stations too by 2024-25. When the judges wanted to know why such a long timeline had been fixed, the railway counsel said that funds were being provided only in a phased manner.

Displeased with such lackadaisical approach by the authorities concerned, the judges wrote: “The suo motu cognizance has been taken by this court in 2016 on account of the daylight murder of a young software engineer at Nungambakkam railway station in Chennai and several orders have been passed from time to time.

“This court under its various orders since August 4, 2016 had expected the installation of CCTV cameras at all important locations. Seven and a half years have passed since then, but the CCTV cameras/video surveillance system has been installed not even in 10% of the railway stations in the State.

“This demonstrates the total apathy on the part of the administration towards the security system in the railway stations. The railway authorities are required to expedite the process of installation of CCTV/VSS in all railway stations. The deadline of 2024-25 for installation of such CCTV/VSS in the railway stations appears to be too long and unreasonable.”

The Bench also wrote: “The learned counsel for the railways submits that funds are required to be sanctioned for the same. For such cause, the excuse of funds cannot be comprehended. The railway authorities shall come out with a specific timeline, of course, of a reasonable period for installation of CCTV/VSS in all stations in Tamil Nadu so as to avoid further mishaps and untoward incidents.”

The case was adjourned to next month for submission of a shorter deadline to install CCTV cameras in all railway stations.

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