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Automated surveillance technology using drones to spot problematic human behavior in crowds is going to be tested at Technozion and Spring Spree festivals at NIT Warangal, reports the Verge. Lead researcher Amarjot Singh of the University of Cambridge claimed that their system has 94% accuracy at identifying violent poses. However, this accuracy drops with more people in the frame (like there would be at a festival), for example, to 79% with 10 people in the frame.

Police surveillance is growing without much scrutiny in recent years. The laws governing such surveillance have grey areas in which a lot of video surveillance technology currently operates. Reported applications include face recognition technology, behavior recognition, as in the case of the surveillance drones reported in The Verge, facial recognition and linking with police records, including tagging personal information with Aadhaar and sharing it across states.

An increasing number of cities have police using various kinds of surveillance databases to get better information on suspects and potential criminals in the city. These databases, where individual policemen can add the information of people to have some disturbing implications. There are several cities using Facial Recognition Softwares to assist policemen keep track of criminals.

Surveillance of everyone, not just criminals or suspects

There are several cities where CCTV camera networks scan everyone on the street and match their faces against a database of suspects and criminals. Here is a partial list:

  • In 2015, Surat became the first city in India to deploy real time surveillance through facial recognition systems when they implemented NEC India's FaceWatch in collaboration with Innovative Telecom & Softwares. The system uses live feeds from a growing network of CCTV cameras and can be used to monitor for crime in real time. It is capable of facial recognition as well as Automatic number plate recognition. Also, "It automatically matches faces against a database of 30,000 criminal mugshots and can alert the police immediately of anyone on a watchlist."By August, Surat had 604 cameras in 114 locations, covering 10% of the city with plans to add another 900 cameras in a year and bring the total to 2,500 in two years.
  • In 2015, Hyderabad police launched vehicle mounted CCTV cameras with a 360 degree view and ability to store footage for 15 days.
  • In 2016, Mumbai got 4,617 CCTV cameras hooked to the RTO control room and backed by 1000 vehicles fitted with GPS in order to coordinate with the control room were made operational with the objective of tackling law and order, fighting and preventing crime, regulating traffic and detecting traffic-related offences. These cameras are also capable of Automatic Number Plate Recognition as well as Facial Recognition. Additional Chief Secretary (Home) K P Bakshi told the Indian Express, "We can search for an individual all over the city. The cameras will identify the face of a wanted criminal. The camera will also pick out faces of persons roaming around continuously in one place. The nearest police van will then be alerted about the person’s location."
  • In 2016, 160 CCTV cameras were installed in Visakhapatanam as a part of a hi-tech surveillance network.
  • In 2016, in Vijaywada in Andhra Pradesh, NEC's Facial Recognition System was used to identify suspects and criminals at the Krishna Pushkaram religious event which sees around 50 million pilgrims attending to take a holy bath in the Krishna river.
  • In 2017, Jaipur police trialed a facial recognition system with cameras installed outside the Ganesh temple at Modi Doongri and controlled from the command and control centre called "Abhay". The FRS would scan the people before it and match them against a database of serial offenders and suspects.
  • In 2018, Cameras with Facial Recognition Technology are expected to be in use in local trains on the Central line in Mumbai, by the end of the year 2018, at a total cost of 276 crore. The cameras "will store facial details of commuters (for 10 days). The cameras with facial recognition software would help trace past movements of any offender on a local train and arrest the person when he travels next." A total of 11,160 cameras will be procured - 76 cameras for each rake, with at least 6 cameras in each coach of the rake.
  • In 2018, Hyderabad city police are matching the faces of everyone on the city's streets against a database of one lakh criminas, from the control room at the Facial Recognition Analytics unit at the Commissioner’s office at Basheerbagh. IT Cell incharge, K. Sreenath Reddy said that the local police are alerted only when the resemblance is more than 70 per cent.
  • Thiruvananthapuram police are using 233 cameras in their surveillance network of the city.
  • Paradip in Odisha is to get a CCTV surveillance camera network within a month.
  • Retired ACP Dhoble (of the hockey stick wielding moral police fame) is now in the process of getting a facial recognition software for the city and believes it needs to be created with the "help" of his son Kshitij, who specialized in Artificial Intelligence at Aukland University. An effort that initially began with a goal of tracing missing people has expanded its objective to "tracking criminals" as well. "Meanwhile, they began compiling the information of all 15,847 police stations in India and uploaded it on the site. One aspect of the site is uploading the information of these police and stations. The other is to spot child beggars, labourers and send it to the site."

Police database for use with mobile app -FaceTagr

This is a database of criminal records that can be used with a Facial Recognition Software (FaceTagr) installed on Android mobile phones of beat policemen and inspectors working in the field. When a policeman scans a suspect's face, the mobile app returns data of police cases filed and police station limits for the criminal the face matches with. Databases being expandable, the database has the potential to store the records of criminals across the country.

The application that was originally built by Vijay Gnanadesikan, CEO of Haliscape Business Solutions, to help rescue children by matching records of missing and found children, was first trialled for police use in Chennal

  • In 2017, FACETAGR was adopted by T Nagar police station of Chennai, beginning with a database of 12,000 criminals. An additional 40,000 suspects were added to the app to improve the chances of police identifying faces. The app used by policemen to "scan" suspects. Once a suspect is scanned, the app returns information about them.
  • In 2018, Chennai police will expand the use of FACETAGR to include interstate criminals as well by expanding the data used by the application to other Southern states. Currently the database has information on 67,000 criminals, including information sent by the Pudducherry Crime Records Bureau. It is awaiting data from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala and Karnataka. The application is in use in 10 out of 12 police districts and is installed on the phones of beat constables. 18 inspectors, subinspecotrs and 150 beat police of Washermanpet were the latest to get the app, with "700 criminals in A, A plus, B and C categories".
  • Chittoor adopted the app in December 2017 with data of 10,000 sandalwood smugglers and 3,000 suspected criminals.
  • Pudducherry has also adopted the use of FACETAGR in March 2018

e-Petty

The e-Petty app is being used across Telangana state to book cases in minor crimes under Sections pertaining to IPC, City Police Act, Gaming Act/ COTPA Act 2003, Motor Vehicle Act and Town Nuisance Act. The app can record photographic and video evidence from the crime scene, photographs of suspects and generate an automatic chargesheet based on evidence. The app tracks previous cases of individuals as well and identify repeat violators because the app links profiles online with Aadhaar card numbers.

Hyderabad

Hyderabad is probably the most surveilled city in the country. The Integrated People Information Hub pulls data from dozens of sources to create profiles of individuals that include not just their own comprehensive information, but that of parents as well. It is a data hoarding machine gone rogue, where there appears to be no reason or reasonable suspicion required to put citizens under surveillance. The surveillance includes call records, social media, relatives and friends, utilities and more.

Questions raised

The use of aggregated databases and Artificial Intelligence  in large scale applications is new in India and the laws don't yet have necessary support as well as restrictions on implementation. There is no doubt that information is power and information on suspects and criminals empowers police to do their jobs better. The lack of development of proper laws, policies, protocols and facilities for the police to record and access information in a secure manner has led to the adoption of various technologies in an ad hoc manner with little overisght.

However, largescale use of such applications raise several and serious questions:

  • Is it constitutional to treat every person as a potential criminal? When all the people entering the range of a Facial Recognition enabled camera are scanned and matched against databases of criminals, it amounts to intrusive surveillance. India lacks a data protection law or a law defining the contours of privacy, however the recent robust arguments against surveillance and observations by judges in the Constitutional Challenge to Aadhaar are very clear that Indians do have a right to privacy and surveillance violates this right.
  • Data ownership: FaceTagr is owned by Haliscape Business Solutiosn Pvt Ltd of Chennai. NEC is a global organization. It is unclear who owns or protects the data on these databases and what restrictions exist against its misuse.
  • Data access: Cortica, a foreign AI company has formed a partnership with the Best Group to analyze CCTV footage from public cameras to predict crime. While technologically it may be a challenging goal, a foreign company with considerable ties to foreign intelligence has capabilities and access to individuals on Indian streets. The software is capable of using data from not just video cameras but satellite and drone footage as well and is capable of analyzing human behavior, including differentiating between nature of crowds - routine market corwd or a protest, etc.In the case of Mumbai, a company run by a software professional and a retired police official appears to have  access to information from all police stations in India and are proceeding to build a database! It is unclear how and why a software under development by private individuals has access to nationwide sensitive data.
  • A market of the gullible: The lack of proper evaluation or policies requiring specific standards has left the police of India a ripe target for companies selling surveillance products who may exploit the real need for collecting information or corrupt insiders to gain contracts. Many of the technologies described here have not been subjected to robust testing and have no published research about their quality. Some of the stories describe extensive installations that become defunct or are not of adequate quality to begin with, as in the case of Visakhapatanam, left with 3 working cameras out of 160 within 2 years of installation at massive public expense. Others describe extremely efficient systems, but ones that violate the rights of the citizens they are supposed to serve.This risks spending public funds for purposes and methods that may not be in public interest. There is an urgent need to consult with independent experts and digital rights law researchers and other professionals without conflict of interest to put together guidelines for data collection for surveillance, data destruction when its purpose is served, securing of that data to prevent misuse and policies on who should have access and a transparent process for granting such access.
  • Who is a criminal or suspect: It doesn't take a lot for police to consider someone a suspect and there is little oversight. There is no warrant or independent authority required to initiate surveillance against anyone. Such a database has the capacity to take the local prejudices of police across state lines and cause considerable harassment to individuals in all areas covered by such databases.
  • Utility: While there is obviously a need for police to monitor suspects in order to gather evidence, the legality and utility of randomly spotting them on the street is debatable. What is the utility of someone say.... suspected of having conducted a robbery... being spotted in another state - if it even is the same person?
  • Technological limitations: Such "identification" is inherently probabilistic and can be wrong. A good example would be the Welsh police wrongly identifying over two thousand people as potential criminals when they used Facial Recognition at the 2017 Champions League final in Cardiff in a crowd of 170,000 spectators. This has the potential to create a lot of harassment as well as waste police resources when applied to the far bigger numbers of people on the street in Indian cities.
  • Bypassing consent: A person suspected by the police and asked to come for questioning has rights. They can agree or refuse and the police cannot actually force them to say.... stand in a line up to be identified without any due process. Or they may wish to have a lawyer present when interacting with a policeman as a suspect. However, use of software such as this allows a beat constable to completely arbitrarily scan people who may not even realize that they are actually in a situation with the law where they may need to exert choices to protect their interests.
  • Human rights: As often happens when the state adopts technology, the advantages of the technology have been understood and promoted, but there appears to have been little consideration given to human rights implications of falsely accused individuals, potential for corruption through entering or removing entries on the database for bribes or blackmail, consequences of false positives to innocents and other potential fallout. There needs to be better consultation by the state when adopting such technologies with professionals (other than those providing the technology as a solution) to assess the wider impact beyond the immediate problem the technology aims to solve and mitigate the potential for harm.
  • Ability to maintain technology: Out of 160 cameras installed in Visakhapatanam 2016, 3 cameras were working in 2018. One of them being pointed to the ground, was useless.
  • Aggregated or discrete databases? It is not known whether the databases used to identify criminals through CCTV or the FaceTagr app or e-Petty are linked where they coexist. Aggregation of data across these databases has even more potential for the violation of rights of citizens.
  • Magnifying social prejudices: A simple statistical reality is that positives - whether real or false - will be higher among those who get scanned more. In a country where there is considerable documented evidence of prejudice against religious minorities or underprivileged castes, classes and communities, the use of such a software has the potential to magnify and endorse prejudices that cause their targeting. Take for example, reported cases of slums being raided and all the men in them being asked to identify themselves. The chances of these men being identified - correctly or falsely - will always be higher than say a person living in a gated society, where such raids are unheard of, simply because such faces will get scanned more often than those whose circumstances don't lend easily to such situations.
  • Use of Aadhaar for profiling: the e-Petty app used in Telangana is a clear use of Aadhaar for profiling - something the government has consistently denied in the Supreme Court.
  • Lack of appropriate digital security: Apart from the data being shared across state borders, or being hosted on private servers or foreign companies being given access to it - which are issues of policy to determine what is appropriate and what is not, there are outright failures of digital security, which result in unintended and unauthorized access to the very sensitive data being collected. Researcher Kodali, for example, had pointed out that the Hyderabad police were using a third party portal to record and geotag crime. The portal having very poor security for the purpose it was being used for, had allowed the indexing of crime reports by search engines for years, including the names of rape victims - which is not legal in India.
  • Lack of independent audit or testing: The systems used for both largescale CCTV surveillance as well as scanning individuals using a mobile app do not have information available on their accuracy. The lesser the accuracy, the more such systems will end up wasting police resources on chasing dead ends and causing harassing citizens.
  • A need for legislation: It is undeniable that the police need effective ways to access databases to find information on suspects and criminals on the fly. It is also inevitable that this will involve a certain degree of invasion of privacy in the interests of conducting investigations. However, this cannot simply be left to whatever software developers believe can be done or police wish to adopt. There needs to be a regulatory framework that will identify situations when such use is legitimate and protect citizens from arbitrarily being entered into databases as suspects. There should also be regulation of what information should remain local and what should be disseminated - a local suspected of robbery does not need to be found acorss state borders, but an absconding criminal found in the footage of a murder should be. There is also a need for legislation to remove names from the databases when the people are no longer suspects - for example cases people were suspected in get closed with others charged.

Further reading:

  • Research published by the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law, "The Perpetual Line-Up" on the unregulated use of public surveillance by law enforcement and the risks.
  • Technological bias: While MediaNama was not able to find any research about FaceTagr specifically, "Face Recognition Performance: Role of Demographic Information" by the FBI about accuracy of Facial Recognition in various population demographics is an interesting read on the biases caused by how the system is "trained" to recognize faces.
  • Policy Paper on Surveillance in India by the Centre for Internet & Society

2

I saw Arvind Kejriwal's easy dismissal of privacy rights when Ravish Kumar raised the question of privacy with regard to Aam Aadmi Party's promise of installing CCTVs in public places in order to "reduce crime". Other arguments on social media include making Delhi safer for women and so on.

This appears to be a rather reckless and reactive embracing of a solution that appeals to the AAP DNA - "prove it, show documentation" gene so to say. If a crime happened, then the CCTV will be proof to prosecute. Delhi will be safer for women. Absolutes appeal to AAP. Black, white. Aar ya paar, doodh ka doodh... etc

There appears to be a lack of understanding of fundamental rights when Arvind Kejriwal asks Ravish what he does on a street that he would choose to hide. This is not so much unlike other privacy violating arguments governments make and is just as much against civil rights as intercepting email would be.

I may be on the street, but I am not public property, only the street is. If a stranger photographing me on the street without my consent is a violation of my privacy, it doesn't smell sweeter if said stranger is the state. I don't have to have a reason to be refused to photographed. And this personal right cannot be discarded just because the entity taking non-consensual images of me is the state.

To someone interested in privacy rights, Arvind Kejriwal's reply was as ignorant as that of Modi's when he'd blithely dismissed brain drain as a non-issue. These are real issues and if not researched, deserve at least a sober reply that commits to researching them. Here's an example of how security can use such footage to violate your rights.

While it is true that CCTV footage can help identify criminals, an entire city with CCTV coverage creates potential to do a lot more than identify criminals and it is invasive of privacy just as stalking is invasive of privacy. You standing on the same street as me is not a problem, but when you're standing wherever I go, all day, then it is a problem. I may not be doing anything on the street, but I may not want people to have the ability to know where I went and what I did all day, everyday.

The idea that using the streets of Delhi means being okay with being watched wherever you go is very disturbing.

We have already seen footage of couples necking on the Delhi Metro. How long do you think it will take before say college students are blackmailed for money or favors with threats of their families discovering their bunking college or boyfriends or girlfriends? Will the girls of Delhi really be safer with a chauvinistic police force able to watch them daily and perhaps even follow the more interesting of them around the city?

How long before jealous spouses or controlling parents start bribing cops to keep an eye on people who have no idea they are being watched and could unwittingly return home to violence?

For your CCTV to be really effective, it will be a matter of months at most before intelligence agencies start queuing up to put pressure to have unlimited access in the name of security. To catch criminals more effectively, face recognition technology (which also often has false positives) will be "needed".

And these are still scenarios of routine corruption or misuse of power. What happens when a Center that is paranoid of NGOs and already suspected by many to spy on political opposition as well as leaders uses these CCTVs to monitor "national security"?

The Aam Aadmi Party is a party chock full of activists, born in an agitation and is well familiar with just how far a state can go to subvert dissent. What do you think happens if whistleblowers and RTI activists can be monitored across the city using CCTV?

Because these are the uses a CCTV coverage of an entire city can be put too as well. How many times does an escaping criminal need to be identified on an average street, and how many times are vulnerable girls, activists, political adverseries walking down it? What will we be sacrificing for all and who will we be endangering by grabbing what appears to be a quick fix?

Can the Aam Aadmi Party promise to be in power forever? Can it guarantee that the foundations of surveillance it has laid will not victimize the people of Delhi no matter what party is in power?

These questions need close answers. It is not a simple matter of "what do you have to hide?" in a country where people catching the eye of the state don't necessarily have to do wrong to suffer.

In a country where the first victim of a crime is the CCTV footage and over 90% instances of rapes happen off the streets and by people known to the victim (so identifying is not an issue), what miracle is expected from CCTVs to take so much risk with civil liberties?

Is this to say CCTVs are useless? No. They have their advantages, and those advantages could be identified and leveraged. For example:

  1. Creating a separate body with a high degree of safeguards to monitor the CCTVs and for any other entity to require a court order to access footage. The authority can be provided with rights to act at discretion in an emergency to give access it deems necessary to prevent a crime or ensure safety or prevent escape of a criminal with a formal process of explanation later. Such access too can be graded in the sense of officials monitoring cameras providing updates or access to the actual feed from the camera. Thus there is a direct chain of accountability for the use and misuse of the cameras.
  2. Accessing cameras locally rather than centrally for whole city. This would reduce potential for stalking.
  3. Identification of areas that are crime prone where the presence of a CCTV would prevent crime or assist in tracing criminals. For example, if there is a high density of crime in a certain spot, and if the nature of the crimes is such that a CCTV would help identify criminals, then that area could be covered by CCTV instead of carpet bombing the city. Needless to say, the success rate of the cameras installed in fighting crime must be assessed and where there is no measureable impact, the cameras should be removed.
  4. There should be a clear process for determing the scope of the CCTV camera project and assessment of risks to privacy should include privacy rights activists and technology experts from the civil society.

These are just some examples on how to avoid grand and reckless declarations of CCTVing an entire city and do more harm than the scope of even the good intent.

I would appreciate it if Arvind Kejriwal can acknowledge that there are serious questions raised about CCTVs and that he publicly commits to assessing privacy concerns and minimizing risk of misuse before the CCTVs are implemented.

About the promise of WiFi for the entire city, I endorse it wholeheartedly. I think Arvind Kejriwal's answer was somewhat lukewarm on the subject, therefore I would like to point out that WiFi allows anyone with a mobile phone to access the internet, instantly giving voice and access to information to a vast section of society. This is very enriching to democracy by encouraging intellectual capital, access to information and transparency. It will free people to seek information beyond what is packaged and presented to them from all directions and thus is among the few ways still left open that a deteriorating right to information can be bolstered. Thus, free WiFi is a great equalizer and inherently pro-democracy.

This is with regard to Vrinda Grover's facebook post as well as assorted defenders of Tejpal's poor, helpless victim, which I cannot comment on individually to engage in debate, so I am choosing to respond here.

To clarify my stand with regard to this case, I do not know Tarun Tejpal personally, have never even corresponded with him or Shoma Chaudhary. Maybe I made a few tweets to Shoma on Twitter criticizing something - I don't recall. That is the extent of my being "friends" with them. This blog has over a dozen articles questioning the media bias on this case. Not a single one of them claims that Tejpal is innocent or even says the victim is lying. My points are:

  1. I believe there is a concerted effort to present this case in a unidimensional and unambiguous manner. This violates my right to accurate information through news media.
  2. It is not respectful of my country, its laws or women's rights in general to rig a case through media in this manner.

I do not understand how it is a media trial to raise questions about an issue that was originally raised through organized promotion of selective leaks of confidential communication and judged in media. It is a response, not initiation of a trial. If a lie was told in media, it must be responded in media. The media supari tactics of hit and run reporting are not ethical in my view. The trial was initiated by the halo-dharis and judged in media and not just Tejpal, but his family and organization suffered before a judge ever saw this case.

That the original complaint that put this man in jail for four months mentions forced entry into lifts on separate occasions - neither of which are evident on CCTV footage is most certainly relevant to anyone following the case in media who knows it for a "fact" that the victim was physically pulled into the lift - based on the victim's own statement. Not to mention your oh so feminist media (it turns out wrongly) reporting that the CCTV footage confirmed the victim's complaint.

What is basically happening here is a widespread outrage about a media trial verdict of "guilty" being questioned - parading as outrage over "rape apology". I challenge anyone to show any publication with any kind of credibility that has called Tejpal innocent. I can show thousands that call him guilty. No one has commented on victim's character or such, but there is an abundance of coverage of Tejpal's business dealings, a comment made in another year altogether and more to create a perception of his character. So let us not get sanctimonious about media trials when all the "rape apology" that anyone has ever done is questioned the black and white nature of information actively perpetrated and aggressively enforced in public domain - incidentally information put forth by the victim's supporters or the victim herself - without redacting the victim's name, since we are suddenly fussy about these things.

Has the victim complained a single time that her private emails were distributed by someone who disclosed her identity? This is not just a disclosure of her identity, it is a violation of her privacy on an extremely serious matter - far more serious than a description of CCTV footage away from the scene of the rape - unless she authorized it. No objection by victim? Why not? She is fine with graphic details of her trauma published, but relatively ordinary descriptions of getting in and out of lifts - that do not mention her identity in any manner and in fact don't even mention the mild violence of pulling her in that she described? Who are we fooling here?

The CCTV footage has been shown to many carefully identified and selected persons in the media and other influential and powerful persons, by family and a close coterie of friends of Tarun Tejpal.

Well, why wouldn't they, if they believe Tejpal to be a victim of a massive campaign against him and have what they believe is evidence that proves his innocence? That the footage is not recklessly released, but selectively shown indicates (to me) that the intent is not to make the footage public, but to simply get the point out to the wider public that the allegations are not as black and white as they have already been reported - it is a correction of a public opinion and as part of the "public" who gets strategically incited to outrage, it is public right to know what our voice fuels. Or the whole thing should have been taken to court without involving public outrage as leverage.

This is in violation of the law and the order of the court. Yes the family has a right to defend Tarun Tejpal, but not by committing unlawful and illegal acts.

I am not a lawyer. Can someone explain how it violates law and order of the court? As far as I am aware, there is no gag on the case, other than the voluntary selective one by media. The family may have done it to defend Tejpal, but none of the reporting says he is innocent. This is more neutrality than the supposed feminists have been able to manage - that too in a heavily prejudiced situation.

I would like Vrinda Grover to explain how Tejpal's family has done unlawful and illegal acts, because such allegations have been used to deny bail in hearings.

The young woman journalist does not have a copy of the CCTV footage.

This is pathetic, Vrinda Grover. From Indian feminists fighting for the right of women to have access to evidence in their own case, the lack of access to the victim is being peddled as some kind of standard to deny factual information of a very public case being known to public. Also, the public has not got a copy of the CCTV footage. Only a description. Not even seen it.

Also, the victim may not have a copy of the footage, but the victim has seen the footage before her statement to the magistrate. She is not unaware of what it contains, as Vrinda Grover seems to be trying to lead the reader to believe. The victim changed some details from her original complaint after seeing the footage - which, before anyone accuses, I am not holding against her in any manner. It is common to be fuzzy on details after trauma. I am simply mentioning that she has seen it clearly enough to be able to find it useful for her statement.

I have not seen the CCTV footage. No one who has taken a public or private position asking for justice for the young woman journalist and demanded a fair trial, not prejudiced or overawed by the campaign conducted by the Tarun Tejpal gang, has seen the CCTV footage.

In other words, the whole circus gunning for Tejpal is taking the victim's accusations as fact and is not interested in any information to the contrary. For the record, I too haven't seen the footage and I too want justice for the victim. Only my definition of justice is not "What the victim says" but what actually happens in courts of law - which has been pre-rigged with massive media campaigning, so hope for my definition of justice is rather dim at the moment - regardless of who is guilty or innocent. The case has been botched beyond belief by the evangelists of "whatever the woman says" as women's rights.

We are not supposed to see that footage because it reveals the identity of the woman journalist. That is the law. 

I am a mere blogger, not a lawyer, but this seems like deliberate disinformation to me. Disclosing the identity of the victim on media is illegal. It is beyond absurd to say that those who KNOW the identity of the victim cannot see the footage because it REVEALS the identity.

Is the woman insane or merely trying to con the public into continuing to believe this "campaign for justice and fuck the law"?

For all those getting suckered into this crap, remember the countless interviews of victim's families, including reporters informing neighbours that the victim was raped because they were dumbfucks enough to want comments about her for TRP laden crap. That sleaze is unethical, but still not illegal till they reveal victim's identity ON MEDIA.

Yes we must debate issues and cases of public importance.

Here is a question I would like Vrinda Grover and gang to reply to. As a feminist, if you have supported a man being thrown into jail for violating a woman, is the woman's complaint allegedly being provably wrong in critical areas your responsibility to investigate and clarify your stand on or should a woman making accusations be supported unconditionally and exclusively always?

On each ocassion the friends and family of Traun Tejpal have orchestrated a media capaign against the young woman journalist. The entire campaign hinges on the 'young woman's character', which when decoded means the same old thing, her past sexual relationships.

This is slander about Tejpal's family. To the best of my knowledge, the first bail was denied when the victim claimed to be intimidated by the visit of Tiya Tejpal to her mother. Incidentally a visit the victim thanked Tiya for on the night before complaining. The second bail was denied when Tejpal was accused of intimidating his Investigating Officer - incidentally, this is not recorded in either the investigation records or the chargesheet. Miraculously claimed only during the bail hearing and forgotten since. After that, the victim claimed that photos of her were circulated by Tejpal's family. To the best of my knowledge, most of these forwards went to original recipients of the press release email leaks. I obtained one from a journalist and it turned out to be an image publicly available on the Think festival website. Now the cyber police are on a wild goose chase trying to find out which anonymous account emailed a publicly available image (that was later taken down) to intimidate the victim - must be Tejpal's family. Then you have the mobile phone found on Tejpal even though he was officially allowed STD calls at that point (got revoked after that incident). Then I lost interest.

Can you explain how these are "orchestrated media campaigns about her character"? I have been following this case from the start. First out of outrage, then when I smelled a media rat and thought someone should raise a counter narrative. I don't have many contacts, but I managed to connect with some ex-Tehelka journalists, Tiya Tejpal and some others. So far, the victim's character is not an issue I ran into in spite of actively seeking information. I still have no idea what her character is like. I know who her boyfriend is - from her own letter. So can you describe the method of this campaign and who its audience was if someone seeking information did not run into it? Or are these campaigns also like the photo intimidation? Circulating mainly among those who got original email leaks?

Is it a coincidence that these articles appear at a juncture when a bail petition will be moved for Tarun Tejpal in the Supreme Court.

No idea, but I can definitely say, accusations about Tejpal's family intimidating victim, disclosing her identity, breaking laws are being presented in time for a bail hearing. As usual.

I firmly believe that undertrials have a right to bail. However the jails are overcrowded with an undertrial population that is disproportionately POOR.

Right. Again that nice "feminist" concept of some people not getting rights being used as an excuse to deny rights you claim to usually support. Twice in one article. Not bad.

Where the accused persons can threaten witnesses, or tamper with evidence or use their position to cause prejudice to a fair trial, their liberty is constrained through denial of bail. We do not have a witness -victim protection mechanism that offers any real security to the complainants and so at times bail should be refused.

What is this intimidation? The victim claims a visit she thanked for was intimidation. An anonymously sent, publicly available photo was intimidation specifically by Tejpal's family. The investigating officer was "intimidated" by Tejpal. None of these describe any specific actions of threat from Tejpal or family directed at her. Though of course I am not naive enough to imagine these would be done publicly, but at least where exposed, they would describe how the intimidation happened?

'Going by the powerful people theory, let us assume Tejpal is indeed an intimidator with great power. Surely his being in jail wouldn't make the victim safer if he has "reach"? On the other hand, if he is out of jail, wouldn't it be one reason less to intimidate the victim (that is, if someone can explain how intimidation can cause bail to begin with unless the victim is the judge too)?  Logic says, intimidation will deny bail, not cause it - like Vrinda Grover is arguing.

Another problem with the intimidation theory is that the victim holds no power to free Tejpal. The case against him has not been filed by her to begin with. She was refusing anyway. Suppose she got successfully intimidated. What would she do? She can hardly deny her allegations as they are in writing in public domain as well as in court records and statements in front of magistrate. As long as the allegations exist, she can do nothing. What would intimidating her achieve other than denial of bail - which is already happening?

We live in a real world where power, influence and position, can and does manipulate and subvert and truth. It appears that at times these results can be achieved even when the person is in custody.

This sounds more like a threat than a concern, considering that so far, all the media trials have happened against Tejpal and with active role by mega news channels. The supposedly all powerful Tejpal has been unable to defend his rights at times (including visits by family, pen and paper or news media neutrality), let alone getting out of jail or sabotaging the case. Even the victim's description of Tejpal's daughter's actions were not verified with the daughter - in spite of the victim's letter saying that she confronted Tejpal on victim's behalf - before being published in newspapers that Tejpal's daughter claimed to have seen Tejpal acting in an inappropriate manner with another woman when she was 13. Something Tiya flat out denied saying. Her visit to the victim's mother was painted in media as intimidation without bothering to seek the other side of the story at all.

The CCTV footage is hardly the only hole in this mega justice story. It is merely another straw. What of the verifiable facts of the email have stood to verification other than those she herself told her witnesses? Tiya denies how she had been described in the emails. Tiya claiming innocence on her visit to victim's mother is supported by the email by the victim herself. Descriptions of pulling by Tejpal are not backed by CCTV footage in a single instance (to even be remembered wrongly) according to reports.

You think the public whose outrage over "facts" helped put a man in jail has no right to know the status of the "facts" that triggered their outrage?

In contrast, the supposedly intimidated victim has people either staunchly declaring she is the victim and Tejpal is guilty or at best saying there is more to the case than the black and white narrative painted in media. Yet apparently it is Tejpal's family manipulating and subverting truth. Maybe they are conspiring to keep him in jail? Strange, suicidal strategies could learn a lesson or five here. Like "how to get free accommodation from the government by breaking law before pretending to apply for bail" or something.

Even as the law stands by, as a mere spectator, indifferent to its promise to protect the woman's dignity.

The woman's dignity was paraded by her well wishers in media when they printed a distraught rape victim's potentially inaccurate and angry emails word for word and treated them as the complete truth needing no verification. THAT is what is causing the victim to lose her dignity when the narrative does not tally up, not any mega conspiracies. The victim was distraught, but her advisers and media exploited her experience for maximum drama, and when the story gets holes, someone is a spoilsport. How dare his family not let him sit quietly in jail and rain on our parade? If more holes appear, this vicious lot will turn on the victim, quite forgetting that the victim herself did not do more than a complaint within the organization and it was them that treated every word without verification as total fact because it would put a "sensational" man in jail.

The victim's dignity was paraded by her supposed friends who stayed completely quiet on the violation allowing a repeat and still staying quiet leaving potential for more repeats. The victim's dignity was paraded by the people who sent out email forwards with graphic details of her trauma complete with her real identity and email. The victim's dignity was paraded when she failed to register even a token protest of extremely private conversation being leaked to media - thus confirming that it was deliberate. The victim's dignity was paraded when her "well wishers" - ALL of them familiar with law, women's rights and procedures after rape either failed to convince her to report her rape and go to a hospital immediately to get tested, but instead participated in a media tamasha starring her experience. Who suddenly think description of CCTV footage is somehow more violating of her rights than her intimate trauma splashed across front pages nationwide that THEY FANNED WITH ALL THEIR RESOURCES.

Who the heck are we kidding here?

What is happening is an organized intimidation of any attempt to question an organized black and white narrative. This includes supposed free speech activists suddenly happy about Outlook and Citizen getting notices for reporting that breaks no laws, discloses no identities.

The sad part is the victim may indeed be wronged, and the inconsistencies with her complaint may be memory issues. She may be wrong in adding some details deliberately or inadvertently, but making an honest complaint of violation. Or she may be totally fake on the other hand (unlikely), But this is no longer about her. By taking her words and treating them as cannon, media itself has vested them with enough credibility and power to be taken word for word as proof of crime and inconsistencies will only highlight the difference between the reality being uncovered, and the one that is comprehensively enforced in media to the point of mere saying that there is more to the case is called a "rape apology". The absolute character media invested in those leaked emails will haunt the victim, because inconsistencies will raise questions on how unverifiable parts can be trusted, when inaccuracies in reporting are hardly a new phenomenon.

At the end of the day, the victim will be used as far as she is useful keeping Tejpal out of commission and ditched ruthlessly denied of credibility for a real complaint she filed because she ended up being held accountable for a media agenda and taken onto a turf where the charges were determined by media, the judicial process was brought about by the media, and the media doesn't lose. It simply moves to the next shiny headline. The damage to her case from media exaggerations/emphasis will be paid for by the victim in credibility.

Four months in jail without bail, and with testimony that has visible loopholes, certainly requires a case to be examined thoroughly, not just by the courts but also democracy’s watchdog, the media.

Tehelka’s editor Tarun Tejpal, facing a rape charge levelled by a young colleague, is languishing in a Goa jail with bail being repeatedly denied, even as his friends and family rush around for judicial intervention and justice that remains elusive.

The Citizen had a close look at the alleged victims testimony and compared it to the CCTV footage available of those fateful moments in a five star hotel lift in Goa. While there is no footage of what happened in the few seconds/minutes that the lift took to go up and come down from the second floor of the hotel, what happened around the lift does not bear any similarity to what the alleged victim claims had happened.

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In other words while the CCTV footage does not establish one way or the other whether the finger penetration constituting rape had taken place inside the lift, it does seem that the associated trauma and agitation that the alleged victim referred to in her complaints was strangely enough not recorded by the cameras.

The verbal ‘testimony’ of the alleged victim is not fully supported by the CCTV images. Narrating the events of 7 November 2013, the opening night of Tehelka magazine’s Think Festival in Goa, the alleged victim said in her written testimony, “as we made our way out of the elevator of Block 7 at the Grand Hyatt, Mr Tejpal held my arm and pulled me back into the lift.” It must be pointed out here that earlier they were in the Lift to drop actor and guest Robert de Niro, and his daughter to their suite as the alleged victim was on what she says “chaperone” duty with the Hollywood star.

So according to her Tejpal caught her arm and pulled her back into the lift saying “Let’s go wake up Bob.” The CCTV footage does not record this at all. Instead it show that after dropping the star to his suite on the second floor, they exited the building chatting rather amicably. Of course there is no CCTV record of this but apparently a hotel staffer passing by saw the two chatting and has given a statement to this effect. Tejpal later spelt out the details of the conversation and these were reportedly highly erotic stories told by the alleged victim to him. The Citizen is not repeating these, as while she has not denied the conversation, it is outside the realm of this report.

The CCTV then records the two re-entering the foyer after about five plus minutes and they go back into the lift together. The alleged victim seemed to be walking in quite easily, with Tejpal neither holding her wrist, nor dragging her into the lift. Incidentally the Hyatt Hotel Block 7 has only two floors, so there is not much that a would be rapist could do inside without the doors opening. It is not a very busy foyer, but waiters on duty can be seen opening the lift doors for de Niro’s entourage, walking up and down, as well as guests in the few minutes that are basically under scrutiny.

Again The Citizen is not in a position to gauge what went on inside the few seconds/minute in the lift as this was not recorded and both the alleged victim and the alleged accused have their own versions of this. This is the part when the alleged rape is reported to have taken place. The lift then opens on the second floor as per the CCTV recording and both come out, Tejpal in fact a little ahead, she following without fleeing, and they move out of the range of the cameras, supposedly having taken the stairs to go down again.They are seen then exiting the building.

The alleged victim, however claims, that the lift finally stopped at the ground floor and not the second floor where they were heading in the first place. And that Tejpal manipulated the buttons. And that after the alleged rape she, “picked up my underwear and began walking out of the elevator rapidly, he was still following me asking me what the matter was.” There is no way to independently check out the conversation, but the images do not show visible signs of agitation on her part.

The alleged victim then records how she informed her colleagues in Goa, and called her boyfriend long distance to tell him what had happened. But that she did not want to lose her job so the next morning she continued as if nothing had happened. There was even a fairly normal work related exchange of messages between her and Tejpal. Then at night when she was going up to fetch de Niro she met Tejpal, according to her version and he said, “come up with me, we have to get something from Bob’s room.” She claimed that she was scared as she did not want a repeat of the night before, and said she would go up and get what was required.

“I was scared of getting into the lift with him again, and more terrified that he was going to try and take me into a room this time. By this time he was holding me by the wrist and had taken me into the lift (which is barely a few steps away from the lobby of Block 7 where he had asked me to wait),” she has said. The CCTV images are at variance with this. Tejpal was not holding her or pulling her. In fact as they were getting into the lift a guest passed by and stopped to chat with Tejpal, who then followed her into the lift.

Then of course there is her testimony of what happened inside the lift, how he lifted up her dress, and the crude remarks that allegedly followed. And that she was so upset that when the lift doors opened on the second floor she said, “I’m taking the stairs and started to walk out”. He pulled me back in, sensing that I was on the verge of hysteria–by this point he was totally comfortably physically manhandling me, but sensing my sheer panic he did not touch me until the lift reached the ground floor. Right as the doors were about to open, he patted my behind once more.”

The CCTV footage shows them getting into the lift as outlined earlier, and in 20 seconds they are on the second floor. The door opens, she walks out first, Tejpal follows her out. He then stops and without touching her turns and goes back into the lift. And she runs back behind him and enters the lift. She could have taken the stairs if all that she said had happened, it was just two floors down. There was no dragging back, no pulling her in. And 20 seconds later they re-emerged from the lift on the ground floor, and walk out quite casually together.

The jury is clearly out on this one.

This article by Seema Mustafa was originally published in The Citizen - republished here, because their site doesn't seem to be working.

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Statement by Tarun Tejpal

If conclusive proof was needed of the political vendetta that has been unleashed against me, under the guise of a sexual molestation investigation, it has been emphatically provided today. In a blatant attempt at twisting and concealing the facts, the Goa police while filing a 3000 page highly spurious charge sheet, has not presented or handed over the most crucial piece of evidence in this case, the CCTV footage of the incident

In my first and only press note of November 22nd 2013 I had urged, "the police to obtain, examine and release the CCTV footage so that the accurate version of events stands clearly revealed". I said this at a time, from Delhi, when I had neither accessed nor seen the footage. But since I was the man on the spot I knew the truth of what had happened.

It is violative of due process, to not make all collected evidence available to the accused at the time of filing the charge sheet. In fact, receipt of the footage is what we have been impatiently waiting for since the last three months. This duplicity is in keeping with the sinister and motivated political vendetta that is being pursued.

I have been in jail since November 30th simply because the goa police, clearly acting under the orders of their political bosses, have refused to release this crucial footage of the relevant days, 7th and 8th November. This entire case hinges on the 130 and 45 seconds (as per the charge sheet) of contested time which can be brought to light via the CCTV footage. The goa police know their fabricated case will collapse the moment the footage is revealed and compared with the 'testimony' of the alleged victim, on the basis of which the Goa police filed it's FIR under draconian provisions.

As it were, I viewed the relevant footage of both days whilst being 'held' in police custody and the footage clearly validates me. The fact is most of the officers in the crime branch know there is no case, and have said as much to me. Even so the IO has been pursuing an agenda spelt out for her by her political masters, totally violating the principle of police neutrality.

I'm afraid what we are witnessing here is an early sign of the inherent fascism of the right wing that will target its detractors in the most sinister and underhand ways, using all the government machinery at its disposal. This is a warning shot across the bows of all liberals and opponents of communal politics. It's a crying shame that a major party that is bidding to rule the great pluralism that is India is imbued with no tolerance of dissenters and critics, of whom I certainly am one.