New Delhi: Delhi High Court has directed Tihar Jail authorities to ensure a "congenial and conducive environment" during participation of child witnesses of below 12 years of age by keeping them away from inmates and "gun- toting guards" in the main prison complex.
"Face-to-face" confrontation of children with criminals has to be strictly avoided and deployment of female officers to accompany girl child witnesses has to be followed as far as possible, the high court said while also making it clear that policemen should not be seen in uniform when a child enters TIP room along with an officer not below the rank of deputy superintendent.
Laying down a series of measures to be strictly followed by Tihar Jail for identification of accused by child witnesses, the high court also said such witnesses are entitled to be accompanied by their parents, guardians or any of their close relatives so that they feel comfortable.
These directions were passed by the court while dealing with a case in which a girl child, the sole eyewitness to the murder of her mother, got frightened within the atmosphere of the jail where she was surrounded by gun-toting policemen and came across criminals participating in the test identification parade (TIP), a process in criminal law where a witness visually identifies the offender.
"We deem it necessary to give certain directions to the Director General (Prisons), Delhi, for (providing) congenial and conducive environment for conducting TIP proceedings in a case where the witness happens to be a child below the age of 12 years," a bench of justices Kailash Gambhir and Sunita Gupta said.
"There may be many child witnesses like the one in the facts of the present case, who may get frightened and traumatised (due) to the unfriendly and unfamiliar environment of a jail where at every step there is deployment of police and paramilitary forces firstly to reach the room meant for conducting TIP proceedings, after passing through several entry points," it said.
"No normal child can be expected to remain undeterred or uninfluenced in such kind of frightening atmosphere surrounded by gun-toting police officials and then ultimately coming across the criminals engaged for participation in the TIP," the court said.
"It is very normal for a child to get apprehensive and frightened as has happened in the present case where the child was of below 12 years of age and she got frightened on seeing the atmosphere of the jail and when she was asked to take three rounds so as to identify the accused person, she started weeping bitterly and then tried to run out of the room," it said.