SC okays witness protection scheme

SC okays witness protection scheme

The Supreme Court on Wednesday approved the witness protection scheme, 2018 finalised by the Centre, in consultation with states and the National Legal Services Authority, which included identifying categories of threat perceptions, and granting protection measures to them.

A bench of Justices A K Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer said the scheme would be implemented by the Centre and all states as the mandate of the top court till enactment of a statute by legislatures.

“The conditions of witnesses in Indian Legal System can be termed as ‘pathetic.’ There are many threats faced by the witnesses at various stages of an investigation and then during the trial of a case,” the court noted.

Among others, Part II(7)(L) of the scheme, 2018 provided for usage of specially designed courtroom having special arrangements like live links, one way mirrors, and screens apart from separate passages for witnesses and accused with the option to modify the image of the face of the witness and to modify the audio feed of the witness’s voice, so that he or she is not identified.

The top court directed that vulnerable witness deposition complexes should be set up in all the district courts in the country by the states and the Union Territories.

“This should be achieved within a period of one year, by the end of 2019,” it directed, citing instance of Delhi’s Dwarka court wherein such a facility has been established with separate witness room, accused room, play area for the child witnesses, pantry, separate toilet and an exclusive and comfortable waiting area.

The judgement was delivered after a group of petitioners, including a journalist, approached the court with the allegations that in the trials that are going on against godmen Asaram, in rape cases, as many as 10 witnesses were attacked and three others killed.