CHANDIGARH: Taking a cue from Delhi and Maharashtra, Punjab Police will be among the first few state police forces in the country to bring in a Witness Protection Policy to hide the identity of witnesses as many of them turn hostile in court after threats from the accused.
Courts and authorities have raised the issue of witness protection several times. Sources said that Punjab Police has drafted a Witness Protection Policy and has forwarded it to the state home department for approval. The policy includes changing the identity of a witness, relocating the person and his family, in-camera proceedings, changing the phone number of the witness or providing him or her with an unlisted number, monitoring mail and phone calls, and ensuring that the witness and accused do not come face to face during investigations or trial.
As per the policy, CCTVs, alarms and fencing will be installed in a witness’ home, whose vicinity will be patrolled regularly. The witness will be escorted from the court in a government or police vehicle. Specially-designed witness courtrooms with live links, one-way mirrors,separate passages for witness and accused,option to modify the witness’ facial image and voice of witness will be introduced.
Courts will be requested for expeditious recording of deposition during trial on day-to-day basis without adjournments.
Witnesses will be given financial assistance from the Witness Protection Fund created by the state government for relocation, sustenance or starting a new profession. A monthly review of the witness’ protection will be done by a Senior Superintendent of Police or Police Commissioner.
“The edifice of administration of justice is based upon witness coming forward and deposing without fear or favour, without intimidation or allurements in a court of law, If witness is deposing under fear the foundation of justice not only gets weakened but it never gets obliterated,’’ stated the draft of the policy.“The very aim of the policyis to protect substantial evidence to help victims get justice and not let the accused walk free and to ensure that the investigation, prosecution and trial of criminal offences is not prejudiced because witness are intimidated or frightened to give evidence without protection from violent or other criminal recrimination.’’