Witness Protection Scheme

Witness Protection Scheme 2018

Witness Protection Scheme 2018

The Supreme Court of India has given approval for the implementation of the Witness Protection Scheme in December 2018. It has also directed the Union and State Governments to impose the same. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs initially created this Scheme in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) attempting to ensure protection for the witnesses.

Significance of Witness Protection Scheme

In every case, the witnesses are the eyes and ears of justice; thus, they play an important role in bringing the criminal or accused to justice. The Witness Protection Scheme is the initial attempt at the National-Level to provide the required protection for the witness bearers, which will go a long way in nullifying secondary victimization. This scheme attempts to ensure that the witnesses receive the necessary protection. It also strengthens the Criminal Justice system in the country and will inevitably increase the National Security.

Salient Features of Witness Protection Scheme

  • The court has stated that the scheme will be implemented under Article 141/142 of Constitution till the enactment of parliamentary and state legislation.
  • This scheme has also directed the states and Union Territories to set up the Vulnerable Witness Deposition Complexes (VWDCs) within a period of one year so that the witnesses could fearlessly depose against the high and mighty without coming in face-to-face interaction with the accused.
  • The primary reason for establishing these VWDCs is due to the large per cent of acquittal in criminal cases due to the witnesses turning hostile and giving false testimonials. This is caused mostly because of the lack of protection for them and their families.
  • The Witness Protection Scheme will extend to all the states of India except Jammu & Kashmir.
  • A separate witness protection fund will be created in each state to meet the expenses incurred under the Witness Protection Scheme.

Objectives for implementing the Witness Protection Scheme

  • Firstly the scheme was formulated by the Home Ministry based on the inputs received from nearly 18 states/Union Territories, legal services authorities, civil society, three high courts as well as from police personnel.
  • The passing of this scheme was finalised in consultation with National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) and Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD).
  • Witness Protection Scheme ensures that the investigation, prosecution and trial of criminal offences are not biased as this may result in the witnesses being intimidated or frightened to give evidence without appropriate protection from criminal recrimination.
  • As per the scheme, Police Escort will be provided to the witnesses who are threatened and, if required, the family of the witness would be relocated to a safe house.
  • The scheme also states that the Police would monitor the Social Media accounts, emails and phone calls of the witnesses. Also, the installation of CCTV cameras would be done in the houses of the victims in order to trace the person threatening them.

Demand for Witness Protection Scheme

There were certain demands behind the implementation of this scheme which includes the reasons enlisted below,

  • Victims and Witnesses of serious crimes are at high risk when the criminal or accused is influential or, and the victim or witness belong to an economically marginalised community.
  • Adolescent girls or Women who report a complaint towards being victims of sexual violence are often even more vulnerable and face extreme pressure r direct threat from the criminal.
  • In addition to these, the witnesses also need to possess the confidence to come forward to assist law enforcement and prosecutorial authorities.
  • The witnesses need to be assured that they will receive protection and support from the harm that criminal groups may inflict upon them in order to discourage or control them from Co-operating towards the case hearing.
  • Due to these reasons, legislative measures to emphasise prohibition against tampering of witnesses have become the imminent need of today’s scenario.
  • Besides India, countries such as the United States of Americal, United Kingdom, China, Italy, Canada, Hong Kong and Ireland have implemented Witness Protection Scheme to sustain law and order within the country respectively.

State Witness Protection Fund

There will be a Fund called ‘the Witness Protection Fund’ from which the expenses caused during the execution of the Witness Protection Order passed by the Competent Authority and other expenditures spent.

The Witness Protection Fund will consist of the following measures:-
i. The budgetary allocation made in the Annual Budget by the State Government;
ii. Receipt of the number of fines imposed (under section 357 of the CrPC) has to be reversed by the courts in the Witness Protection Fund.
iii.Donations/contributions from International/National/Charitable Institutions/Organizations and individuals permitted by Central/State Governments. iv. Funds contributed towards Corporate Social Responsibilities.

Types of Witness Categories

There are three different types of threats imposed on the Witnesses. They are,
1. Risk extending to the life of the witness or his family members during the investigation, trail or after that
2.Threats to the safety, reputation or property of the witness or his family members during the investigation or trial period.
3.Any threat that is moderate and extends to the harassment of witnesses or their family members’ reputation or property during the investigation period or trial period.

If an individual who is claiming witness for any legal issue, falls under one of these three categories then under the Witness Protection Scheme they can file an application – ‘Witness Protection Application’ for seeking a protection order from a competent authority of concerned district where the offence is committed. The types of protection measures envisaged under the scheme are to be applied in proportion to the threat, and they are not expected to go on for infinite time.

The District and Session Judge will be the chairing authority who oversees such complaints. The filing for protection and further measures required will be managed by the Head of Police in the District and the Head of a prosecution in the District. When the authority mentioned above receives the application under Witness Protection Scheme, it is essential to call for Threat Analysis Report (TAR) from ACP/DSP in charge of the concerned Police Sub-Division. The authority is also empowered to implement protection measures based on TAR such as identity protection, change of identity and relocation of witnesses.

Filing of Application

The application for acquiring protection order under this Witness Protection Scheme can be filed only in the prescribed form before the Authorized personnel as per the jurisdiction along with supporting documents, in duplicate either directly in person or through the trial court or Superintendent of Prison.

Procedure for Processing the Application

(a) When the Authority receives an application, it would pass an order for creating the Analysis Report about the Threat faced by the witness. This report is framed by the Commissioner of Police of the District Police who are investigating the cases.
(b)Depending upon the seriousness of the matter owing to the threat, the corresponding authority can pass orders for the protection of the witness or his family members during the hearing of case based on the application submitted.
(c)The Report on Threat Analysis would be prepared by the Commissioner of Police in Commissionerates of the District.

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