A Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court has directed the Uttar Pradesh State Government to file a counter affidavit within two weeks in response to the petitioner’s prayer seeking effective implementation of the Witness Protection Scheme, 2018.
Ms. Abha Singh, the President of the petitioner trust appeared for herself and Additional Government Advocate represented the State in Rannsamar Foundation vs State of Uttar Pradesh (PIL [Cri.] No. 20887 of 2020).
During the hearing before Justices Pankaj Mithal and Saurabh Lavania, the court ordered, “Let the above letters and documents of the State Government be brought on record by the State Government by filing a counter affidavit within two weeks, so that the petitioner may be able to reply and argue the matter further on merits.”
The petitioner, Rannsamar Foundation had approached the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court, seeking effective implementation of the decision in Mahendra Chawla v. Union of India (2019) 4 SCC 615.
In this case, the Supreme Court had approved the Witness Protection Scheme, 2018, prepared by Union of India and had directed all the States and Union Territories to strictly enforce the same. The key provisions of this scheme may be read here.
Counsel for State submitted that the State Government had issued necessary directions to all the District Authorities for immediate and effective implementation of the Scheme and even provided vulnerable witness boxes in all Judgeship.
The State has been given two weeks to file the counter affidavit and place all letters and documents on record by the next hearing on December 20, 2020.
On November 4, in the matter pertaining to criminal cases against legislators, the Bench comprising Justices NV Ramana, Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose of the Supreme Court had issued similar directions to enforce the witness protection scheme. (Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay Vs. Union of India Writ Petition[s][Civil] No[s]. 699 of 2016)
The court said, “The Witness Protection Scheme, 2018, approved by this Court in the case of Mahender Chawla v. Union of India (2019) 14 SCC 615, should be strictly enforced by the Union and States and Union Territories. Keeping in mind the vulnerability of the witnesses in such cases, the Trial Court may consider granting protection under the said Scheme to witnesses without their making any specific application in this regard.”
On December 2, a Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice S Vishwajith Shetty of the Karnataka High Court, while hearing a suo motu petition, gave similar directions to the State of Karnataka in matters pertaining to prosecution of political personalities. The Bench said,
“There cannot be any dispute in the cases pending before the special court prominent political personalities will be the accused. There is a possibility that some of the prosecution witnesses may become vulnerable witnesses. We are therefore of the view that it is all the more necessary to implement the witness protection scheme, in relation to the prosecution witness in the cases pending before the special court.”
The Allahabad HC order may be read here: