‘Accused in jail accosting witnesses strikes at core of protection programme’: Delhi HC
Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma said threatening those protected under the law will “directly affect” the courts as a witness under duress can never depose truthfully.
NEW DELHI: Taking a serious view of allegations about members of organised crime syndicates threatening witnesses from inside prison, the Delhi High Court has said such actions strike at the core of protection of witnesses who are the eyes and ears of the judicial system and the only means to reach a just decision.
The court ordered that witnesses in cases lodged under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Act (MCOCA) be examined within one month and no unnecessary adjournments be sought by the prosecution.
After Maharashtra enacted MCOCA in 1999 to combat organised crime and terrorism, several states followed suit adopting similar laws to tackle organised crime.
Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma said threatening those protected under the law will “directly affect” the courts as a witness under duress can never depose truthfully. “The allegations against the respondents are that they were engaging in the act of threatening the witnesses of the case in question even while being lodged within the confines of jail. Such actions strike at the core of protection of witnesses who are the eyes and ears of the judicial system and are the only means of reaching just decision of a case and bring home the guilt of an accused,” said the court in a recent order.
“The Court also remains conscious of the fact that in case the witnesses who are protected under the law in a criminal case are threatened even from jail, it will directly affect the courts reaching a just decision and punishing the guilty. A witness under threat can never depose truthfully,” the court said. The prosecution alleged that the accused in the present case were part of an organised crime syndicate engaged in unlawful activities and are facing charges under MCOCA.
The court made the observations on a petition by the State against a trial court order refusing to allow the prosecution to summon and examine six witnesses with respect to the allegations of threats to witnesses from jail. Not much is known about these criminals apart from the fact that they have been charged under various provisions of MCOCA for crimes they have committed. The counsel for one of the accused argued the prosecution had not shown how the witnesses allegedly threatened were relevant for the court to arrive at a just decision.