Witness caught in Centre-State crossfire

The long-pending demand for providing  protection to witnesses has again hit a roadblock with the Centre refusing to take the initiative to make it a law.

Published: 02nd April 2017 10:27 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd April 2017 10:27 AM   |  A+A-

NEW DELHI: The long-pending demand for providing protection to witnesses, who may turn hostile under muscle or money power, has again hit a roadblock with the Centre refusing to take the initiative to make it a law.

The lack of action comes despite the low conviction rate in cases where witnesses have turned hostile after threat and intimidation.

The Centre told the Supreme Court that since police, investigation and other law and order issues fall under the states and is in the Concurrent List, it can’t interfere in the policy of states.

The affidavit filed by the Union Home Ministry states that it has discussed the witness protection module with the states but they did not come on board. Then it was decided that the issue will be sent to the Bureau of Police Research and Development so that fresh deliberations can be made.

Witnesses can seek protection from authorities under Section 195 A of Indian Penal Code. Countries such as the US, Canada, New Zealand, China and  UK have special arrangements for witness protection.
The Central stand assumes significance as only last week the apex court directed Uttar Pradesh and Haryana governments to provide full protection to the witnesses in the Asaram rape case.

Advocate for petitioners Utsav Bains appeared for the witnesses and sought full protection for them. The Centre’s deliberation with states was started following a Supreme Court direction last year which said the State needs to play a definite role in coming out with witness-protection programme, at least in sensitive cases involving those enjoying political patronage, muscle and money power so that trial does not get tainted and derailed.

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