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Delhi Government becomes first State/UT to notify Witness Protection Programme


Protection of witnesses is always a concern for fair justice. Delhi High Court highlighted this in the case of Neelam Katara v. Union of India, as well as in Jessical Lal murder case. In 2013, Delhi High court had directed Delhi government to frame a witness protection policy in order to provide guidelines and principles for protection of witnesses.  The court had clearly mentioned that the prosecution, police and executive agencies will have to follow this policy for witness protection.

Guidelines in Neelam Katara Case
In the order dated 14.10.2003 in paragraph 15 in the case of “Ms. Neelam Katara Vs. Union of India & Ors.” Crl. W. No. 247/2002 (High Court of Delhi), Hon’ble Court has stated that “ Till a suitable Legislation is brought on the Statute book, we direct that following guidelines shall operate for protection of the witnesses.

In paragraph 16, Hon’ble Court has stated that:- “These guidelines shall be known as “Witness Protection Guidelines”

“Witness” means a person whose statement has been recorded by the Investigating Officer under Section 161 Cr.P.C. pertaining to a crime punishable with death or life imprisonment.
“Accused” means a person charged with or suspected with the commission of a crime punishable with death or life imprisonment.
 “Competent Authority” means the Member Secretary, Delhi Legal Services Authority.
Admission to Protection: The competent Authority, on receipt of a request from a witness shall determine whether the witness requires police protection, to what extent and for what duration.

Factor to Be Considered:

In determining whether or not a witness should be provided police protection, Competent Authority shall take into account the following factors:
1. The nature of the risk to the security of the witness which may emanate from the accused or his associates.
2. The nature of the investigation or the criminal case.
3. The importance of the witness in the matter and the value of the information or evidence given or agreed to be given by the witness.
4. The cost of providing police protection to the witness.

Obligation of the police:

1. While recording statement of the witness Under Section 161 Cr.P.C., it will be the duty of the Investigating Officer to make the witness aware of the “Witness Protection Guidelines” and also the fact that in case of any threat he can approach the Competent Authority. This the Investigation Officer will inform in writing duly acknowledged by the witness.
2. It shall be the duty of the Commissioner of Police to provide security to a witness in respect of whom an order has been passed by the Competent Authority directing police protection.

In paragraph 17, Hon’ble Court has stated that:- “We further direct that the respondent, State shall give due publicity to the guidelines framed. We make it clear that the guidelines framed by us would not be in derogation of the powers of the concerned criminal court. If it forms an opinion that a witness requires police protection to so direct.”

Delhi Witness Protection Scheme 2015

Complying with the Delhi High Court’s guidelines, the Aam Aadmi Party led Delhi government on July 30, 2015 notified its witness protection programme thus becoming the first State/UT to do so.

Categories of witness as per threat perception:

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 and intimidation of the witness or his family member's, reputation or property, during the investigation process.

Persons eligible under the Scheme:

Any person and his family member who is a witness in the trial of the offences which are punishable with death or life imprisonment or an imprisonment not less than seven years.

Key facts of Delhi Witness Protection Scheme:

1.  Prohibits revealing or publication of name, address and other details of witness in any manner, directly or indirectly.
2.      Change identity of a witness in order to protect identity of a witness and relocating the person.
3.      Facility for live link and in-camera proceedings to help witness to depose without coming to court.
4.      Protection measures like installing security devices at the witness house and guarding it, providing escort vehicles to the witness.
5.      Protection under the programme to witness will approved by a member secretary or the Officer on Special Duty (OSD) of the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DLSA).
6.  Formations of witness protection fund in order make payments for services in witness protection. This fund will be maintained from budgetary allocations, donations and fines deposited in court.

dRead about complete scheme: 

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