Madras High Court judge makes his office transparent, literally

Justice S.M. Subramaniam got glass fixed on his chamber door after failing to obtain CCTV cameras installed

Justice S.M. Subramaniam of the Madras High Court has made the functioning of his office transparent, literally. After efforts to get a closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera installed in his chamber failed, he has affixed see-through glass on doors to his office.

Any person walking through the corridor that leads to his chamber, on the second floor of the heritage building of the High Court, can now see everything that happens inside.

On February 14, he passed a judicial order directing the Registrar (Administration) of the High Court to install a CCTV camera inside his chambers in two weeks. The direction was issued before making a “strong recommendation” to install similar cameras inside the chambers of all bureaucrats.

Recalling the words of Mahatma Gandhi that “an ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching,” the judge said he would want a CCTV camera to be affixed in his chambers first before making a similar recommendation to the government to avoid complaints of sexual harassment.

Disposing of a batch of writ petitions related to a complaint of sexual harassment lodged by a woman Superintendent of Police against her superior in the rank of an Inspector General of Police, Justice Subramaniam said CCTVs inside the chambers of bureaucrats would help safeguard the interest of women employees.

When the police department itself had been promoting CCTV cameras in public places as well as private properties to curb crime “what about the offenders and black sheep in police offices, chambers and office rooms of the higher officials? What measures are taken to nab such offenders inside the Police department and other public offices and institutions,” he asked.

Though nearly seven months had elapsed since that order was passed, the High Court administration did not affix a CCTV camera inside the judge’s chamber.

When he called for an explanation, the Registry told the judge that his verdict on the writ petitions had been taken on appeal to a Division Bench. Hence, there was a delay in implementing the directive.

Not wanting to wait anymore, he instructed the Public Works Department, which renovated his chambers recently, to avoid tinted glasses on the doors to his chambers and sought see-through glass sheets.

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