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No data on witnesses killed, turned hostile: Centre in Lok Sabha

The MoS Home Affairs, has answered in the Lok Sabha that data on witnesses killed is not centrally maintained

Sabrangindia 20 Jul 2021

Data

“Details of witnesses killed and cases in which accused were set free due to adverse attitude of witnesses are not maintained centrally”, answered Nityanand Rai, the Minister of State for Home Affairs.

Indian Politician Jayadev Galla asked the minister whether there exists any data on such witnesses and whether the Witness Protection scheme provides only three months of protection to witnesses. To the latter part of the question, Mr. Rai answered, “The Witness Protection Scheme, 2018 provides that the witness protection measures ordered shall be proportionate to the threat and shall be for a specific duration not exceeding three months at a time. The duration of protection is thus, not restricted to three months. The same can be extended by the Competent Authority keeping in view the threat perception.”

This answer comes at a crucial time when the Witness Protection Scheme of 2018 has been gathering dust and instances of witnesses getting killed or turning hostile have been increasing. Recently, the family and lawyers of the 19-year-old Dalit girl who was allegedly gang raped and murdered in Hathras last year, was threatened before the Special Court in Hathras on March 5, 2021, where the trial is pending.

In an affidavit submitted before the Allahabad High Court, an advocate named Tarun Hari Sharma, stormed into the court room and charged towards the victim’s family and their lawyers, allegedly shouting and issuing threats. Amidst the barrage of threats extended to them, the trial was interrupted and the family’s counsel Seema could not represent them. The affidavit also states that on account of this ruckus created by Advocate Tarun Sharma and the mob, the witnesses could not properly depose on account of fear for their lives and security, and that there was a clear attempt to hinder the trial, as SabrangIndia had reported previously.

In another instance, a key witness in two separate murder cases was shot dead near Hakimganj under Kiul police station area in Bihar’s Lakhisarai in March this year, reported The Times of India. In January 2020, a woman from Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh was beaten to death allegedly by men who were facing trial for molesting her 13-year-old daughter. In June this year, one Suresh, a private school owner, was reportedly shot dead while walking. According to some media reports, he was a prime witness in his nephew’s murder case, who was stabbed to death outside Neki Ram College in Rohtak, Haryana in 2018.

The need for witness protection has been highlighted in many judgments of the Supreme Court, especially cases like Sakshi v. Union of India (2004), where the court took extraordinary measures to ensure protection of the witness. It said, “The mere sight of the accused may induce an element of extreme fear in the mind of the victim or the witnesses or can put them in a state of shock. In such a situation he or she may not be able to give full details of the incident which may result in miscarriage of justice. Therefore, a screen or some such arrangement can be made where the victim or witness do not have to undergo the trauma of seeing the body or face of the accused.”

But the most instrumental piece of law in witness protection remains the case of Mahender Chawla & Ors. Vs. Union of India & Ors. [Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 156 of 2016], which laid down a Witness Protection Scheme that was also endorsed by the government in the Rajya Sabha in July 2019. But even after 3 years of its existence, very little has been done about its implementation.

The answer may be read here: 

Related:

Hathras case: Victim’s family and lawyers threatened inside court premises
Witness Protection in India: an idea gathering dust
Witness Protection

No data on witnesses killed, turned hostile: Centre in Lok Sabha

The MoS Home Affairs, has answered in the Lok Sabha that data on witnesses killed is not centrally maintained

Data

“Details of witnesses killed and cases in which accused were set free due to adverse attitude of witnesses are not maintained centrally”, answered Nityanand Rai, the Minister of State for Home Affairs.

Indian Politician Jayadev Galla asked the minister whether there exists any data on such witnesses and whether the Witness Protection scheme provides only three months of protection to witnesses. To the latter part of the question, Mr. Rai answered, “The Witness Protection Scheme, 2018 provides that the witness protection measures ordered shall be proportionate to the threat and shall be for a specific duration not exceeding three months at a time. The duration of protection is thus, not restricted to three months. The same can be extended by the Competent Authority keeping in view the threat perception.”

This answer comes at a crucial time when the Witness Protection Scheme of 2018 has been gathering dust and instances of witnesses getting killed or turning hostile have been increasing. Recently, the family and lawyers of the 19-year-old Dalit girl who was allegedly gang raped and murdered in Hathras last year, was threatened before the Special Court in Hathras on March 5, 2021, where the trial is pending.

In an affidavit submitted before the Allahabad High Court, an advocate named Tarun Hari Sharma, stormed into the court room and charged towards the victim’s family and their lawyers, allegedly shouting and issuing threats. Amidst the barrage of threats extended to them, the trial was interrupted and the family’s counsel Seema could not represent them. The affidavit also states that on account of this ruckus created by Advocate Tarun Sharma and the mob, the witnesses could not properly depose on account of fear for their lives and security, and that there was a clear attempt to hinder the trial, as SabrangIndia had reported previously.

In another instance, a key witness in two separate murder cases was shot dead near Hakimganj under Kiul police station area in Bihar’s Lakhisarai in March this year, reported The Times of India. In January 2020, a woman from Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh was beaten to death allegedly by men who were facing trial for molesting her 13-year-old daughter. In June this year, one Suresh, a private school owner, was reportedly shot dead while walking. According to some media reports, he was a prime witness in his nephew’s murder case, who was stabbed to death outside Neki Ram College in Rohtak, Haryana in 2018.

The need for witness protection has been highlighted in many judgments of the Supreme Court, especially cases like Sakshi v. Union of India (2004), where the court took extraordinary measures to ensure protection of the witness. It said, “The mere sight of the accused may induce an element of extreme fear in the mind of the victim or the witnesses or can put them in a state of shock. In such a situation he or she may not be able to give full details of the incident which may result in miscarriage of justice. Therefore, a screen or some such arrangement can be made where the victim or witness do not have to undergo the trauma of seeing the body or face of the accused.”

But the most instrumental piece of law in witness protection remains the case of Mahender Chawla & Ors. Vs. Union of India & Ors. [Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 156 of 2016], which laid down a Witness Protection Scheme that was also endorsed by the government in the Rajya Sabha in July 2019. But even after 3 years of its existence, very little has been done about its implementation.

The answer may be read here: 

Related:

Hathras case: Victim’s family and lawyers threatened inside court premises
Witness Protection in India: an idea gathering dust
Witness Protection

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