HC pulls up Maha govt over witnesses protection

The Bombay High Court on Friday came down heavily on the Maharashtra government.

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Friday came down heavily on the Maharashtra government for its lackadaisical approach towards formulating a witness protection scheme despite several orders since last year.

"The state government is least bothered in giving protection to witnesses in serious criminal cases which is why no policy has been formulated," a division bench of Justices A S Oka and S S Jadhav said.

It further observed that judicial notice has to be taken on a large number of acquittals as a result of witnesses turning hostile. "What disturbs court`s conscience is that no scheme has been formulated yet. The state government should be seriously concerned with the fact that witnesses are not supporting the prosecution case at the time of trial," the court said.

The observations were made during the hearing of a petition filed by one Vijay Jadhav, an eyewitness in the murder case of an independent corporator from Satara district, whose police protection was withdrawn recently.

According to the petitioner, his police protection was withdrawn after the accused were acquitted in 2001. "However, an appeal has been filed by the state in High Court against the acquittal and Jadhav has started getting threat calls again," the petition claims.

The High Court, had on two occasions in November last year and in January this year directed the state government to consider formulating a policy for witness protection. However, till date no decision has been taken by the government.

"Is there anything wrong in protecting witnesses? We have noticed while hearing criminal appeals in majority of the cases witnesses have turned hostile. Yesterday, we came across a case where a police inspector turned hostile because he was not given witness protection," Justice Oka said.

Posting the matter for hearing on October 12, the court has directed Advocate General Darius Khambata to appear in the case.