Supreme Court to direct states to implement draft witness protection scheme

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the draft scheme

Mains level: Importance of protection for Witness in major trials


News

  • The Supreme Court said that it would direct all the states to implement the draft witness protection scheme framed by the Centre in consultation with the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).

Background

  1. The issue of witness protection scheme had cropped up earlier when the top court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking protection for witnesses in rape cases involving a self-styled preacher.
  2. The court had asked the Centre to a draft scheme for witness protection in the country as specific provisions in this regard were already there in the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act.
  3. The SC was told that the draft scheme has now been finalised and would be made into a law in due course.
  4. However till then the court should direct the states to start implementing it.

Witness Protection

  1. Witness Protection  may  be  as simple  as  providing  a  police  escort  to  the Courtroom,  offering  temporary  residence  in  a  safe  house  or  using  modern communication   technology  for   recording   of testimony.
  2. In other  more  complex  cases,  where  cooperation  by  a  witness  is critical  to  successful  prosecution  of  a    powerful  criminal  group,  extraordinary measures are required to ensure the witness’s safety viz. anonymity, relocation of  the  witness  under  a  new  identity  in  a  new,  undisclosed  place  of

Draft Witness Protection Scheme

  1. The objective of this Scheme is to ensure that the investigation, prosecution and trial of criminal offences is not prejudiced because witnesses are intimidated or frightened to give evidence without protection from violent or other criminal recrimination.
  2. The schme shall extend to the whole of the India except the State of Jammu & Kashmir.
  3. During the  course  of  investigation  or  trial  of  any  serious  offence,  an application  for  seeking  identity  protection  can  be  filed  in  the  prescribed  form before the Competent Authority.
  4. The scheme has three categories of witnesses based on the threat perception, and the states should start enforcing it:

Category ‘A’

  • Where the threat extends to life of witness or his family members and their normal way of living is affected for a substantial period, during investigation/trial or even thereafter.

Category ‘B’

  • Where the threat extends to safety, reputation or property of the witness or his family members, only during the investigation process or trial.

Category ‘C’

  • Where the threat is moderate and extends to harassment or intimidation of the witness or his family member’s, reputation or property, during the investigation process.

Other Provisions

  1. Witness Protection Fund means the fund created for bearing the expenses incurred during the implementation of Witness Protection Order passed by the Competent Authority under this scheme;
  2. Witness Protection Order means an order passed by the Competent  Authority detailing the steps to be taken for ensuring the safety of witness from threats to his or his family member’s life, reputation or property. It also includes interim order, if any passed, during the pendency of Witness Protection Application;
  3. Witness Protection Cell means a dedicated Cell of State/UT Police or Central Police Agencies assigned the duty to implement the witness protection order. It shall be responsible for the security as per witness protection order

Proposed Rights to be entitled to the Witness

  • Right to give evidence anonymously
  • Right to protection from intimidation and harm
  • Right to be treated with dignity and compassion and respect of privacy
  • Right to information of the status of the investigation and prosecution of the crime
  • Right to secure waiting place while at Court proceedings
  • Right to transportation and lodging arrangements

With inputs from:  NALSA

Judiciary Institutional Issues
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