Supreme Court calls for witness protection scheme

New Delhi: Pointing out that threat and intimidation has been one of the major reasons for witnesses turning hostile in criminal cases, the Supreme Court has called for an effective witness protection programme, at least in sensitive and high-profile cases.

A bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and Amitav Roy said time has come for a comprehensive law being enacted for protection of the witness and members of his family. It said witnesses are the eyes and ears of justice. When the witnesses are not able to depose correctly in the court of law, it results in low rate of conviction and many times even hardened criminals escape the conviction. The bench passed this order while confirming a Punjab and Haryana high court judgment reversing a trial court order acquitting four accused Ramesh, Suresh (brother of Ramesh), his wife Saroj and Prem (mother of Ramesh) for killing Ramesh’s wife by pouring kerosene and setting her ablaze.

The court said intimidation of witnesses shakes public confidence in the criminal justice delivery system. It is for this reason there has been a lot of discussion on witness protection and from various quarters demand is made for the state to play a definite role in coming out with witness protection programme.

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