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Supreme Court approves Centre’s draft witness protection scheme

Supreme Court approves Centre’s draft witness protection scheme
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The Supreme Court on Wednesday approved the Central governments draft witness protection scheme and asked all the States to implement it till Parliament comes out with legislation

Court asks the States to implement it till Parliament comes out with legislation.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday approved the Central government’s draft witness protection scheme and asked all the States to implement it till Parliament comes out with legislation.

A Bench headed by Justice A.K. Sikri said they have made some changes in the scheme.

The issue had cropped up when the top court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) petition seeking protection for witnesses in rape cases involving self-styled preacher Asaram Bapu.

During the hearing on November 19, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal told the court that the draft scheme, which has now been finalised, would be made into law “in due course”, but till then the court could direct the States to start implementing it.

The court was also told by advocate Gaurav Agrawal, who is assisting it as an amicus curiae in the matter, that the government has finalised the scheme after discussing it with all the States.

Three categories of witnesses
The scheme, finalised in consultation with the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) and the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD), has three categories of witnesses based on the threat perception.

Last April, the Centre informed the court that it had framed a draft of the scheme and it was sent to the States and Union Territories seeking their comments.

The draft of the Witness Protection Scheme, 2018, states that it is the first attempt at the national-level to holistically provide for the protection of the witnesses, which will go a long way in eliminating secondary victimisation.

“This scheme attempts at ensuring that witnesses receive appropriate and adequate protection. This will go a long way in strengthening the criminal justice system in the country and will consequently enhance national security scenario,” the draft said.

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, but are expected to be for a specific duration on need basis which is to be reviewed regularly.

Further, the scheme envisages that there should be safeguards that witnesses and accused do not come face to face during investigation or trial and adequate security measures should be there for the safety of the witnesses and all possible steps should be taken for expeditious completion of the trial of cases.

The scheme provides for identity protection and giving a new identity to the witness.

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