There are millions of criminal cases pending for hearing and judgment in our country. In most of the cases, the criminal is mostly identified by the evidence they left behind or by witnesses. Tampering of evidence has been a common practice in many countries although the government tries to protect it well. Unlike the other pieces of evidence, the witnesses are the most valuable part of testimony because they have a life of their own. So it is the necessity and duty of the government to protect their witnesses.
The witnesses provide information about the case out of a free will or by compulsion in the form of oral or written. The only witness in the murder case of Asifa an eight-year-old child was tortured by the convict’s men before he was saved. This has been the state of the witnesses for a long period in India. To change this Witness protection program has been made a necessity in our country too.
Is Witness Protection Program A Necessity?
The witnesses form the important pillar in the case. In case of Himanshu Singh Sabharwal vs State of Madhya Pradesh and Ors. 2008 case, the power of witnesses was clearly proved. But these witnesses are sometimes harassed and killed based in the power and position of the convicted in the society.
When a witness is silenced the whole nation and the freedom of justice is also silenced. So it is the state’s duty to protect the witnesses to uphold the national motto called “Satyameva Jayate”.
Witness Protection Around the Globe
All over the world the witnesses protection program is available is most of the countries to protect the witnesses of the major cases by giving them police protection, or move them to a secure location and sometimes if the convicted is a major criminal and witness is in requirement of utmost protection then the witness sometimes are even given identity under the witness protection program.
These programs are available in countries like Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, Thailand, Israel etc,… For several years there has been a continuous talk to introduce witness protection in India too. Before few months India also didn’t have any program to protect the witnesses. Many committees all over the country tried to resolve these issues in the past,
The Law Commission in its 14th report stated that it is a necessity to provide travel and food allowances for the witnesses to provide them support and they have been travelling to the court every month for a mistake they never committed. The more these witnesses are tortured the more they will become hostile and turn against the government. The fear of going to court and their life has to prevent many witnesses from coming out to testify. Many people despite knowing the truth have remained silent due to this. So it is the responsibility of the government to make the witnesses feel as comfortable and secure as possible.
Law commission report in its 178th, addressed the same issue of witnesses turning hostile. The travel expenses along with the other expenses and wastage of their time from their personal lives make them turn hostile. So in 1973, the rule was passed out to record the statement of material witnesses in the presence of the Magistrate when the punishment of the criminal could more than seven years.
The 198th commission addressed this problem more seriously, and they formulated a witness identity protection program and they passed a bill.
Witness Protection Bill, 2015
Following the 198th commission, the bill was prepared and introduced to the parliament in the year 2015. The main aim of the bill was to strongly protect the identity and secure the witnesses to offer a fair trial for both the victim and the convicted. The chief points in the bill were to,
- Create a witness protection program to protect all the witnesses during all stages of the proceedings. From investigation to the judgment.
- The committee should be found at both the state level and national level to offer protection to the witnesses.
- Provide guards to protect the witnesses and their identity.
- Also to change the cases out of the jurisdiction to allow the witness to move freely.
- The false statements and witnesses should also be punished to instil fear among the persons who try to misuse the law.
The bill was passed through all the state governments, but the final decision could not be made due to various statements and ideas. The states are also responsible for passing this law since the police and public order comes under the jurisdiction of the state. Also, the expenditures that these laws would cost are also large.
Currently, in the year 2018, The Supreme Court of India has approved the bill for protecting the witnesses stating that the witnesses are the eyes and ears of a case. Though the schemes under this program are only applicable to extreme conditions, this is a change everyone had been hoping for. This change might lead to more new changes in the future of our country resulting in a more safe and secure India.