HC asks Maharashtra to frame fresh witness protection policy

The Bombay High Court has asked the Maharashtra government to frame a fresh policy by November 30 to provide protection to witnesses in the light of its observations and recommendations made by the Law Commission of India.

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has asked the Maharashtra government to frame a fresh policy by November 30 to provide protection to witnesses in the light of its observations and recommendations made by the Law Commission of India.

"Until the new policy is formulated, we direct the State Government to provide immediate protection to the witnesses even at the stage of investigation on a written or an oral prayer made by them or the Investigating Officer," a division bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka said, in its order yesterday.

The bench was acting suo motu on a public interest litigation (PIL).

Picking loopholes in existing policy, the court observed that the term 'witness' should include not only those who are going to depose in court but also those who possess information and documents related to any crime.

The court noted that the new policy should have a provision for wider protection measures including protection to family members of witnesses.

The bench observed that the scheme under the State Government Resolution of April 11, 2014, does not deal with witness identity protection. As in the case of the Delhi Scheme, protective measures should include witness identity protection.

Judges noted that as per recommendations of the Law Commission of India, witness protection measures must be taken up right from the stage of investigation even before actual recording of statements under Section 162 of the said Code, until conclusion of trial and even thereafter.

Protecting witnesses even at the investigation stage is of vital importance to ensure that witnesses feel secure when they actually come to court to record their evidence, the court said.  

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