NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday approved the Central government’s draft witness protection scheme and asked all the States to implement it until Parliament comes out with legislation.
A bench headed by Justice A K Sikri directed that vulnerable witness deposition complexes shall be set up by the States and Union Territories within a period of one year, i.e., by the end of 2019.
“Since it is a beneficial and benevolent scheme which is aimed at strengthening the criminal justice system in this country, which shall in turn ensure not only access to justice but also advance the cause the justice itself, all the States and Union Territories also accepted that suitable directions can be passed by the court to enforce the said scheme as a mandate of the court till the enactment of a statute by the legislatures,” the Bench said.
The issue had cropped up when the apex court was hearing a PIL seeking protection of witnesses in the rape cases involving self-styled preacher Asaram Bapu. The scheme, finalised in consultation with the National Legal Services Authority and the Bureau of Police Research and Development, has three categories of witnesses based on their threat perception.
The draft of the Witness Protection Scheme, 2018 says it attempts at ensuring that witnesses receive appropriate and adequate protection. “This will go a long way in strengthening the criminal justice system in the country and will consequently enhance the national security scenario.”
Under the scheme, witnesses can file applications for seeking protection before the competent authority of the district where the offence is committed. This competent authority will be chaired by the district and sessions judge, with head of the district police as member and head of the prosecution in the district as member secretary.
The authority, when it receives an application, has to call for a Threat Analysis Report from the ACP/DSP in charge of the police sub-division concerned. The types of protection measures envisaged will be for a specific duration on need basis, which is to be reviewed regularly. The scheme envisages that there should be safeguards so that witnesses and accused do not come face to face during investigation or trial.