File Copyright Online - File mutual Divorce in Delhi - Online Legal Advice - Lawyers in India

Witness Protection: A Prerequisite To A Fair Trial

Witness cooperation with law enforcement and judicial agencies is essential to the successful prosecution of crimes, making them the foundation of successful criminal justice systems. In order to defend the rule of law, witnesses must be protected from criminal suspects' s intimidation or physical threats. Bentham said, "Witnesses are the eyes and ears of Justice."

The law requires witnesses to give statements under oath because the testimony of an honest witness is the foundation of justice and helps decide whether an accused person is convicted or acquitted. The criminal justice system's ability to function effectively depends primarily on witnesses' willingness to provide information and evidence without being coerced or threatened. Witnesses in India are in an extremely difficult situation.

Witnesses are no longer prepared to testify as a result of the lapses in the country's criminal justice system. Witnesses are viewed as a class deliberately overlooked. The accused party's rage, pressure, and intimidation threatens the witness's life and existence, rendering him hopeless. As both sides in a case are aware that a single witness can influence the outcome, witnesses are frequently coerced or emotionally manipulated to remain silent or change their stands.

The majority of witnesses step back from performing their duty, which is to express an impartial and honest opinion and defend what is right or must be right, for a variety of social, legal, economic, and psychological reasons. There must be effective laws, and those that are already in place must be effectively implemented to ensure that no witness withdraws from testifying, a fair trial is not hampered and justice is rightly served.

A "witness" is a person who has made a statement, given or accepted evidence, or is required to give evidence in such proceedings, and has information or documents about any crime that the competent authority has determined to be relevant to any criminal proceeding. "Witness means any person, who possesses information or document about any offence," reads section 2(k) of the 2018 Witness Protection Scheme.

The term "witness" is defined in Section 118 of the Indian Evidence Act of 1872 as "a person who is competent enough to understand the questions asked by the court." Therefore, this section says that anyone can be a witness unless they are unable to comprehend and respond to the question.

Relevance in India

In India, witness protection has developed into a major problem. The Supreme Court decided in Swaransingh v. the State of Punjab (1957) that evidence is admissible in a criminal case. Witnesses are crucial for providing such evidence. During Mahendra Chawla and Ors. V. Union of India And Ors. (2019), the Court ruled that a threat to life and a lack of adequate state protection may be one of the primary reasons witnesses change their stance. Hostile witnesses are those witnesses.

According to the Fourth National Police Commission Report of 1980, most witnesses in India are becoming hostile as a result of the accused's pressure and coercion, necessitating a regulation against witness manipulation. As a result, witnesses in India are in poor condition. Witnesses have to deal with a lot of stress. First witnessing the entire scene of the crime and then remaining terrified of a potential threat to their lives.

In Zahira Habibulla H. Sheikh and Others v. State of Gujarat and Others, the Supreme Court emphasized the importance of protecting witnesses. Honourable Justice Raju Doraiswamy and Justice Arijit Pasayat of the Supreme Court made the observation that a witness will not be given a fair trial if they are forced to give false evidence or are threatened with doing so.

We need to realize that the judiciary does not have complete authority to protect a witness in every situation.

The judiciary can't do anything until it knows everything about the case and until the case is brought before the bench for hearing. In the case of State of Gujarat v. Anirudh Singhh and another, the Honourable Justices K. Ramaswamy and D. Wadhwa observed that, every witness who is aware of the crime's commission is obligated to assist the State in providing evidence Unfortunately, many witnesses become hostile for a variety of reasons, including the deterioration of law and order and the self-preservation principle. In some cases, even direct witnesses are being liquidated before they are examined by the Court. In such circumstances, the Law Commission ought to investigate the issue immediately.

Witness Protection Scheme 2018

The Witness Protection Scheme was the first law that the Indian government enacted in 2018. It had been long overdue for such an Act. In the 1997 case State of Gujarat v. Anirudh Singh, the Supreme Court ruled that it is the responsibility of every witness to assist the State by providing evidence. The scheme has a straightforward objective to make sure the witnesses' interests in India are protected. In addition, the Scheme grants the witness access to a police escort to the courtroom.

The Act divides witnesses into three categories in the worst-case scenario:
  • Class A: When a witness or a member of his or her family receives life-threatening threats during the proceedings.
  • Class B: When the witness's safety, reputation, and property are at risk during the investigation.
  • Class C: When the threat consists solely of harassing the witness and members of his or her family during the proceedings.

In addition, the Scheme establishes a Witness Protection Fund to cover the costs associated with a witness protection order. The comprehensive list of safeguards that must be approved by a competent authority is known as a Witness Protection Order. During the course of the investigation, the witness and members of his or her family are also fully protected by the Scheme.

Some of the protective measures mentioned in this scheme are:
  • The installation of security cameras at the witness's residence
  • Regular house checks and patrols of the witness's house
  • Keeping an eye on the witness's call logs, emails, and other communications
  • The witness's relocation in light of the Threat analysis report
  • The witness is given numbers to call in an emergency

Reports on Witness Protection from the Law Commission

Witness Protection refers to safeguarding witnesses from harm. However, according to the Law Commission's 14th Report (1958), it only covers the protection of witnesses from discomfort in court and travel-related issues. A chapter on witness protection was included in the 154th Report of the Law Commission. It recommended shielding witnesses from the ire of the accused, but it did not specify any measures to protect them from physical harm.

In Sakshi v. Union of India, the 172nd Report of the Law Commission addressed the issue of whether an assaulted minor could not give a statement in front of the accused. Insertion of CrPC Section 168 was suggested in the 178th Law Commission Report. In its report, the Committee on Reforms of the Criminal Justice System made 158 recommendations for recognizing the witness' vulnerability and ensuring that victimized witnesses receive justice.

Section 195 of the I.P.C. was added by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2005 (No. 2 of 2006). A draft of a separate law for Witness Protection was provided in the 198th Report of the Law Commission in 2003 by the Malimath Committee. The Rajya Sabha members of the Malimath Committee inquired about the state of the laws and amendments. Protection of witnesses at all stages of the case, witness anonymity, and protection of the witnesses' lives and property, as well as that of his relatives, were among the committee's recommendations.

Challenges towards Witness Assurance Regulations in India

27.5% of Indians are blasted by neediness and India doesn't appear to have the adequate resources to overcome the same. The first step would be for all states to agree on and acknowledge the law as a duty. It would also cost a lot to hire bodyguards, provide security, relocate another area, build new police stations and courts, hire staff for the judiciary, and so on which doesn't seem to be possible under the current circumstances. The issue of corruption in the administration and judiciary, which would obstruct the law's swift passage, is like the cherry on top.

A person in India would avoid taking such drastic measures if they were to testify at the expense of their family, job, and social obligations to the community. Expert witnesses in forensic fields do not currently receive any form of protection. Furthermore, considering that criminal cases are adjourned for an average of ten to fifteen years, it appears unrealistic to provide witness protection for all witnesses over such a prolonged period. Even though drafting a law to protect witnesses can be time-consuming, it is a crucial aspect of justice administration.

Lessons to be Learnt from Foreign Jurisdictions with Respect to Witness Protection

When it comes to establishing and implementing an efficient witness protection program in India, India has a lot to learn from other nations. The Australian Witness Protection Act places a strong emphasis on protecting witnesses' identities to the point where it allows witnesses to alter their registered birth dates, among other things so that the witness can remain anonymous.

In addition, numerous legal provisions in the United Kingdom ensure that a witness's anonymity is maintained by screening him so that only judges or jurors can see him, voice modulation of the witness, and so on and so forth. In addition, intimidation of a witness is a criminal offense in the United Kingdom.

While the United States of America does not have a legislature, it does have a comprehensive Witness Security Program known as WITSEC. A very unique aspect of the Witness Protection Scheme is the analysis of the potential intimidators' financial strength in relation to a witness and, as a result, providing the witness with financial assistance in addition to housing, medical care, and job training.

The fact that convictions in the United States have increased by 89 percent since the inception of WITSEC in 1970 supports the fact that an effective Witness Protection Scheme improves the administration of justice.

One of the essential elements for any society to accelerate its development is the establishment of peace and security in the society, which is in turn associated with the proper administration of criminal justice in the society. The Witness Security Program in the United States is a testimony to the fact that the administration of justice improves with an effective Witness Protection Scheme.

Therefore, in order to achieve these goals, it is past due for the Indian government to develop either a Witness Protection Legislation or a Comprehensive Scheme to fill the void in witness protection in India. The authors propose that the Witness Protection Bill of 2015 be implemented as soon as possible.

We believe that any potential Witness Protection Legislation in the future ought to include provisions requiring the United States to provide witnesses with assistance from the government in order to prevent witnesses from being subjected to any kind of monetary pressure. The right to a speedy trial and a prompt and final conclusion of the case following a conviction and sentence must also be guaranteed. In addition, the government should at least make any kind of intimidation of a witness a criminal offense under the relevant laws of the land until it comes up with such legislation.

In addition, the legislature ought to take inspiration from worldwide Witness Protection Laws and Schemes in order to ensure that an effective law with sufficient checks and balances is enacted in order to realize the dream of truly impartial criminal trials in India.

Conclusions and recommendations
The way the law is put into practice could be governed with some restrictions in order to make it practical and workable. By developing well-thought-out legislative and structural arrangements to deal with witness hostility, protection, and assistance, the States should be assigned significant financial ramifications.

A protection cover cannot be given to every witness because of practical constraints; Consequently, protection ought to be given priority in cases. Police, prosecutors, and judicial officials must begin treating witnesses with minimal sensitivity and assistance at all stages to save money.

The witness protection law can be effectively implemented if the government, the police, and the judiciary all function in harmony. The judiciary should handle the legal aspects of the act, and the police should be entrusted with the act's execution, demonstrating the political will of the government.

It is necessary to rebuild trust in order to increase witness statements. The witness ought to have complete confidence that their testimony is supported by an impartial system. It is necessary to take measures to conceal the witness's identity, occupation, and address.

Promoting pseudonym, voice, and face distortion, as well as video and teleconferencing, must be encouraged. The right to a speedy trial must be guaranteed. In exceptional circumstances of poverty, witnesses must receive assistance with transportation and lodging. Section 344 of the Criminal Code states that witnesses should be punished for perjury.

Whenever the courts make malicious and wilful changes to statements, the witness must have access to the application and investigation status. Relocation, false identity, and follow-up issues should be addressed by a separate cell. It's possible that police officers of a certain rank will have the

freedom to protect witnesses in a variety of ways, including escorting witnesses to court or work, providing emergency relocation assistance, and so on. Witness Protection is a progressive initiative in India, where government practices frequently resist modernization and innovation, so its success may take some time.

However, we must begin somewhere and eventually work toward generating and responding to witness questions. Serving the purpose can be made easier if criminal justice policies are created with unbureaucratic and effective implementation. Last but not least, witnesses must be treated fairly, with dignity, and without being intimidated or harassed.


Law Article in India

Ask A Lawyers

You May Like

Legal Question & Answers

Lawyers in India - Search By City

Copyright Filing
Online Copyright Registration


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi Mutual Consent Divorce is the Simplest Way to Obtain a D...

Increased Age For Girls Marriage


It is hoped that the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which intends to inc...

Facade of Social Media


One may very easily get absorbed in the lives of others as one scrolls through a Facebook news ...

Section 482 CrPc - Quashing Of FIR: Guid...


The Inherent power under Section 482 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (37th Chapter of t...

The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India: A...


The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a concept that proposes the unification of personal laws across...

Role Of Artificial Intelligence In Legal...


Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing various sectors of the economy, and the legal i...

Lawyers Registration
Lawyers Membership - Get Clients Online

File caveat In Supreme Court Instantly