Final version of “Delhi Witness Protection Scheme” presented before Delhi High Court

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Murder, Kidnapping, Robbery and Rape are no more an incident of surprise and hardly any society has remained untouched by the dark shadow of such crime and what surprises most is when such crimes take place in public presence but still the police or court do not get any witness. Why so ? Why people have lost their guts to tell the truth the main issue behind this is that India has no comprehensive witness protection programme, and on many occasions, key witnesses in criminal cases have been found murdered.

In 2013, the Delhi High court had directed the government to frame a witness protection policy to provide guidelines and principles which the police, prosecution and executive agencies will have to follow. The High Court had directed the Delhi government earlier this May while directing prosecution of a ballistic expert and Bollywood actor Shayan Munshi who turned hostile in the high profile Jessica Lall murder case. During the prosecution, the court had asked the government to bring forth a witness protection policy for ensuring that witnesses can not be intimidated by powerful accused during a trial.

After much deliberation, it was decided to have a comprehensive policy for protecting witnesses so Delhi Government notified a policy to bring in a witness protection programme to ensure protection of witnesses in "crucial" cases.

The Delhi Witness Protection Scheme "envisages categorisation of witnesses, creation of witness protection fund, types of protection and procedure for processing such request by the competent authority"

Delhi Witness Protection Scheme 2015, lays down certain steps to protect the identity of witnesses which are :-

  • Prohibiting the publication or revealing, in any manner, directly or indirectly, the name, address and other particulars which may lead to the identification of a witness
  • Changing the identity of a witness; relocating the person, facility for in-camera proceedings and ‘live link’, in which a witness can depose without coming to court.
  • Taking steps so that an accused is not able to confront the witness or monitor the person’s calls and mails and changing the phone number of the witness or providing him or her with an unlisted number.
  • Installing security devices at the person’s home, guarding the person’s residence, providing escort vehicles to the witness will be some of the other measures for protection 
  • A member secretary or the Officer on Special Duty (OSD) of the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DLSA) will be the competent authority to approve who can be accorded protection under the programm .The witness has to apply for protection following which DSLSA will seek a threat analysis report from Delhi Police

Depending on the threat, there will be three categories of witnesses which will include :-

  1. Category A: Witness and family members face threat to life during investigation or after that
  2. Category B: Threat to safety, reputation or property of the witness or his family during investigation
  3. Category C: Threats of moderate nature and harassment 

The government has established a witness protection cell under the Delhi Police, which will be headed by an assistant commissioner of police (ACP) or deputy commissioner of police (DCP).

There will be a witness protection fund, which will get funds from budgetary alllocations, fines deposited in court and donations or contributions from institutions and individuals. 

 

Practice Questions
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