The Supreme Court on Wednesday approved the Centre’s draft witness protection scheme and directed all states and union territories to implement it until Parliament passes legislation. A bench headed by Justice AK Sikri and comprising Justice Abdul Nazeer said it had made some changes to the draft, PTI reported.
The top court was earlier hearing a petition seeking protection of witnesses in rape cases involving religious leader Asaram, when the matter of a draft scheme cropped up. Attorney General KK Venugopal told the court on November 19 that the draft had been finalised and would be made into a law “in due course”, but that the court should ask states to begin implementing it.
On Wednesday, the court approved the scheme, calling it a “beneficial and benevolent scheme aimed at strengthening the criminal justice system”, Live Law reported. However, it also emphasised the need to create Vulnerable Witness Deposition Complexes, places where witnesses who are vulnerable can testify in a safe manner.
The draft witness protection scheme provides for protection based on the level of threat perception, for a specific duration, subject to review. The scheme, formulated by the Union Home Ministry, assigns three categories of threat perception: 1) threat to life of witness or family members, during or after investigation or trial, 2) threat to safety, reputation or property of the witness or family members, and 3) a moderate threat extending to harassment or intimidation of the witness or family members.
These witnesses can file an application for protection with an authority which comprises the district and sessions judge, the district police chief and district prosecution chief. On receiving the application, the authority will file a Threat Analysis Report to gauge the presence and extent of the threat, and decide the types of protection that can be provided.