New Delhi: Following the path of the US, the UK and China, India is all set to implement the witness protection plan in the country. The Supreme Court, while supporting the plan, has asked the Centre, states and Union territories to enforce the plan by the end of 2019.
The court ruled: “The Union of India as well as states and Union territories shall enforce the witness protection Scheme, 2018, in letter and spirit. It shall be the ‘law’ under Article 141/142 (extraordinary powers of Supreme Court) of the Constitution, till the enactment of suitable parliamentary and/or state legislations on the subject … in line with the aforesaid provisions contained in the scheme.”
The witness protection plan that was formulated by the central government, proposes police escort to the witness up to the courtroom, use of technology for the recording of the testimony and creation of special witness protection cell in every state.
The law enables protection to witness involved in criminal cases or complex cases involving organized criminal groups. However, the protection rules will be applied considering the vulnerability of the case and threat perception, the court said.
“It is a harsh reality, particularly in those cases where the accused persons/criminals are tried for heinous offences, or where the accused persons are influential persons or in a dominating position that they make attempts to terrorise or intimidate the witnesses because of which these witnesses either avoid coming to courts or refrain from deposing truthfully,” the court observed.
The apex court has also directed that “the identity of witness should be concealed. Publication or revealing, in any manner, directly or indirectly, of the name, address and other particulars which may lead to the identification of the witness during investigation, trial and post-trial stage, should be prohibited.”
The four petitioners, who are witnessed to heinous crimes, had approached the apex court alleging threat to their lives and demanded protection.