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Is Delhi HC’s recent move on CCTV installation in restaurants an emerging privacy issue?

June 2, 2020

By Rupin Chopra and Nishtha Das

According to the Indian Daily, Times of India, the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi on May 27, 2020 directed the Central Government to consider a petition seeking installation of CCTV cameras in the kitchen of all restaurants as a representation[1].

In view of the novel coronavirus outbreak, all the restaurants in the city have been allowed to operate on a takeaway model and the Petitioner being concerned about contamination of food amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, contended the following points in the abovementioned petition:

  • There is a high possibility that transmission of COVID 19 virus may be carried due to usage of food packaging and other materials, therefore, installation of CCTV cameras in the kitchen and food preparation areas should be facilitated.
  • The camera feed would act as a material record for the authorities to ensure compliance with the safety norms.

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  • The Petitioner has also contended that the live camera feed should also be displayed for the customers to make sure that the safety norms are being followed.
  • The Petition further sought storage of the camera feed up to six months.
  • A direction was also sought in the petition for the Delhi state government to ensure that the above points were followed by establishments all across the city.

PIL on CCTV installation in restaurants- Delhi High Court directs Center to consider PIL as representation

The Hon’ble Court finding merit in the Petition, directed the Centre to consider the PIL as a representation. Reportedly, the Court has also directed the Government to keep in mind the above mentioned points covered by the Petitioner regarding installation of the CCTVs in the kitchen.

It is pertinent to mention that safety of the consumers should be the primary concern of the restaurants/ establishments engaged in cooked foods. However, an initiative like installation of the CCTVs would bring out reinforcement of the safety norms at a statutory level.

What can be the implications of installation of CCTV cameras in Restaurants and Kitchens?

While it is important that safety and hygiene is strictly maintained not only during these crucial times of COVID 19 but all throughout the operations of the restaurant. However, it will be interesting to see how the restaurant owners retort to the above state of affairs. The CCTVs installed will not only record the activities inside the kitchen but will also store the recordings with the public authorities hence making it susceptible to probable exposure.

In general practice, restaurant owners do install CCTV cameras inside the kitchen but the recordings of the same is limited to the accessibility of owners, therefore the risk of any exposure is minimized. Although, if the recordings are stored and monitored all throughout, it is likely that there can be a disclosure of important information related to restaurant operations.

Interestingly, the Hon’ble High Court does not discuss about the precautions and directions for the Government authorities with regard to the storage and constant monitoring of the recordings. Which is why, it is quite possible that the restaurant owners might be apprehensive towards the installation of the CCTV cameras as their trade secrets and other confidential processes of kitchen related activities might be at risk of being disclosed to the general public.

Restaurants to open from June 08, 2020

With a view to resume commercial activities for business sustenance, the Central government has issued guidelines for Unlock 1, allowing phased reopening of different industries. Vide its order dated May 30, 2020[2], the Ministry of Home Affairs has instructed that hotels and restaurants might be allowed to restart dining operations from June 08, 2020. In view of the said order, it would rather be captivating to see how this Delhi High Court’s move is shaped by the government keeping in mind the balance of interest for both the restaurant owners and the consumers.

[1] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/covid-19-delhi-hc-asks-centre-to-treat-pil-for-cctv-cameras-in-restaurant-kitchens-as-representation/articleshow/76034911.cms

https://www.aninews.in/news/national/general-news/covid-19-delhi-hc-asks-centre-to-treat-pil-for-cctv-cameras-in-restaurant-kitchens-as-representation20200527151024/

[2] https://www.mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/MHAOrderDt_30052020.pdf

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