Witness Protection Scheme

Question: Which of the following statement/s is/are correct regarding Witness Protection Scheme?
1) This scheme was formulated by Central Government
2) Supreme Court approved the draft of first Witness Protection Scheme
3) This scheme was finalized with special consultation of National Investigation Agency (NIA)
4) This scheme is launched for protection of witness by maintaining secrecy over its name
Correct option is:

(a) 1, 3 and 4 only.
(b) 1, 2 and 4 only.
(c) 2 and 4 only.
(d) All of the above.
Answer: (b)
Related facts:

  • The Supreme Court on 5th December, 2019, approved the draft of India’s first Witness Protection Scheme. It was approved by the double bench consisting of Justices A.K. Sikri and S. Abdul Nazeer asking the Center, States and Union Territories to implement it with immediate effect.
  • Supreme Court in its judgment said that it is a clear violation of Article 21(Protection of life and personal liberty) of constitution if someone is pressurized or threatened to life for testifying. The court said it shall be a law under Article 141(law declared by Supreme Court is binding on all courts)/142(Enforcement of decrees and orders of Supreme Court) of constitution until any parliamentary and/or state legislation is enacted on this subject.
  • It was drafted by centre with suggestions and inputs from 18 states/union territories, National Legal Service Authority (NALSA), Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD), open sources including civil society, three High Courts as well as police personnel.
  • The scheme classifies witness as per threat perception into 3 categories:
  • Category A: It includes cases which has threat to life of witness or its family during trial, investigation or later.
  • Category B: It includes cases having threat to safety, reputation or property of witness only during investigation or trial.
  • Category C: It includes cases with moderate threat extending to harassment of the witness or its family members during trial, investigation or later.
  • It includes coverings of different kind of protections such as camera trial to avoid physical confrontation of witness and accused, physical protection and anonymising of testimony. Additional protective features regarding identity protection like giving a new identity, new address as well as ‘parentage’ to witness is also enlisted.
  • A Witness Protection Fund will also be established by states and union territories which are to be funded by respective governments and by donations. Witness Deposition Complexes are to be established where witness can depose without confronting accused.
  • This issue has a long history; in 2003 Justice V Maliwat Committee on criminal justice system recommended its enactment. This issue got fresh when court was hearing a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) on protection of witness in cases against Asaram Bapu in 2018.
  • Countries such as US, United Kingdom, China and Italy etc. have Witness Protection Scheme.

Links:
https://indianexpress.com/article/what-is/witness-protection-scheme-supreme-court-5480930/
https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/shielding-witnesses/article25682716.ece

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