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Witness Protection Scheme does not recognise the many pressures on them

7 2 90

With two recent developments, some crucial questions relating to witnesses came to the surface. First, the Supreme Court (SC), while hearing a PIL in Mahendra Chawla and Ors, approved the Centre’s draft Witness Protection Scheme (WPS). Second, all accused in the Sohrabuddin case were acquitted. In the latter, 88 witnesses out of a total of 212 who were examined by the court turned hostile.

The SC has asked the states to implement the WPS till Parliament comes out with legislation in this matter. In principle, this measure is laudable. However, the scheme falters with respect to the core concerns and issues that witnesses face in their day-to-day interactions with the courts. The draft scheme, prepared by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) and Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD), does not seem to be premised on any empirical study and, therefore, the deeper insights about the varied sufferings and consequences of being a witness remain unaddressed.

The core of the WPS remains the security to witnesses. An almost crude estimate suggests that not more than 20 per cent of all witnesses require this kind of a protection measure. In cases involving terrorist acts, organised crime and powerful people with connections and resources, there may be a dimension of security. However, a vast majority........

© Indian Express