Mumbai: Social workers, RTI activists and whistleblowers who receive threat will now be given police protection immediately, the Maharashtra government informed the Bombay High Court on tuesday.
Additional government pleader Nitin Deshpande told a division bench of Justices V M Kanade and K S Shriram that a government resolution dated August 13, 2013, states that police protection would be given immediately to any social worker, RTI activist and whistleblower who filed an application that he has received a threat to his life.
The bench was hearing a suo moto (on its own) petition taken up on the issue of safety of activists after the murder of Pune-based RTI activist Satish Shetty.
The court had in the past directed the government to consider framing comprehensive guidelines for witnesses and whistleblowers and activists` protection.
According to the GR, after providing immediate police protection, an enquiry would be made by the Assistant Commissioner of Police or Deputy Superintendent of Police into the activist`s application claiming a threat.
A database shall also be established of all social workers, activists and whistleblowers across the state which shall be updated every month.The High Court directed the government to implement the GR forthwith.The bench also directed for a three-member committee comprising of a senior IAS or MPSC cadre official, senior IPS official and an official from the state social welfare department to be formed to look into the issue.
"The committee shall also consider steps to provide protection to witnesses. It is commonly seen these days that accused are getting acquitted because witnesses turn hostile and do not support the prosecution. If protection is not given to witnesses, the entire exercise of prosecuting the accused is futile," the court said.
The court also said witnesses who may need protection are women, children, witnesses who depose in MCOCA cases and in those cases where offence is serious and against the society.
The court has directed for setting up the committee within four weeks and submitting its report within eight weeks thereafter.