Cops try their best to protect witnesses, the unsung heroes

Unlike in the US, the UK, Canada and Australia where the government extensively support and protect witnesses who risk their lives by giving evidence in court, in India, especially in Delhi, despite ‘inadequate infrastructure’ the city police are giving their best to save the lives of witnesses through its version of a witness protection programme.

“Though witness protection programme is in a nascent stage in India, unlike in the US and the UK where a witness, whose life is at risk, is extensively protected and sometimes their identity changed to save them, we do our best with limited resources to provide security to witnesses,” said a senior police officer.

Be it a prime witness in the 2G spectrum scam in which politicians A Raja and M K Kanimozhi, government officials and top telecom industrialists were involved, or in the 2002 Gujarat riots, the Delhi Police have been providing protection to them for past several years.

“Any witness whose life is in danger is given the best possible protection. Though a lot of things have to been done to enhance support to such people, we give whatever possible we can,” said the officer.

This year so far, 13 crucial witnesses have been provided 24x7 protection in high-profiles cases like kidnapping, murder or cases in which gangsters are involved. In 2012, 33 witnesses were provided security, including a witness in the 2G scam, who had been receiving threat calls. Twelve witnesses got security from Delhi Police.

The officer said witnesses are the unsung heroes of society, for they play a major role in bringing criminals to justice. “They risk their lives to convict criminals. We cannot jeopardise their lives. Witnesses who are being threatened need to know that they can trust police for their safety,” said the officer.

The witness protection programme started in 2003 after the Delhi High Court issued a circular to police regarding this programme during the Nitish Katara case.

In the circular, the court said that the “edifice of administration is based upon witnesses coming forward and disposing in courts of law, without fear or favour”.

“Since case after case of the prosecution were collapsing owing to material witnesses turning hostile, it was felt in public interest that certain direction pertaining to witness protection needed to be issued as prevailing in countries like the UK, the US, Australia and Canada through legislation,” the court said.

Thereafter, police made the special programme and started providing security to witnesses whose lives are at risk. The court laid guidelines, which police have been implementing.

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