HC asks Delhi govt to expedite witness protection policy
New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday granted four more weeks to the city government to evolve a witness protection policy to ensure that witnesses are not harassed or intimidated by powerful accused in criminal cases.
A division bench of Acting Chief Justice B D Ahmed and Justice Vibhu Bakhru asked the Delhi government to expedite the process after its standing counsel Pawan Sharma submitted that "further time is needed to come out with the policy."
Sharma told the court that the process of implementing the policy was underway and a month was required to implement it.
Accepting the counsel`s submission, the bench posted the matter for August 8.
Earlier, on May 22, the high court had observed that witnesses are "bulwarks" in a criminal case and had directed city government to frame within ten weeks the witness protection policy.
The bench had given the direction in its 103-page verdict directing prosecution of Bollywood actor Shyan Munshi and a ballistic expert for turning hostile in the sensational Jessica Lall murder case.
Lall was shot dead on the intervening night of 29-30 April, 1999 by Manu Sharma, son of Haryana Congress leader Venod Sharma after she refused to serve a drink to him at a late night party at socialite Bina Ramani`s restaurant Tamarind Court here in South Delhi.
Munshi, who was serving liquor alongside Lall on the fateful night, had lodged the FIR and later allegedly retracted from it during the trial saying he did not know Hindi.
On Munshi`s role, the high court had said that despite
admitting that he had witnessed the entire incident, he later declined to identify the real offender which "prima facie" indicates that he was attempting to "help the accused".
The bench had referred the case to the Chief Justice to convert the matter into a PIL and set up a special bench to monitor the witness protection programme of the city government.
The court had said that witnesses should not be allowed to come under pressure of accused as has been seen "in case after case" and it is the duty of the government to provide adequate protection to them.
It had also referred to witness protection laws of various foreign countries and issued slew of directions to the city government to initiate the programme till enactment of any law in the country.
In addition, the bench had asked the trial courts to entertain any application filed by a witnesses for protection and the prosecuting agency to start its assessment within three days and provide security to the witness.
The bench had also stated that its directions are binding on Delhi government till it is replaced by suitable legislation and directed it to prepare an Action Taken Report, and place it before the court, at the end of ten weeks.
The bench had also directed the government to make a separate fund to implement the programme after consulting its finance, home, law departments besides the security agencies.
The court had also ordered Police, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to conduct assessment of the threat or potential for danger to any witness, cited in criminal trials.
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