While ordering prosecution of two witnesses, actor Shayan Munshi and ballistic expert P. S. Manocha, in the Jessica Lal murder case for perjury, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday directed the Delhi Government to notify a witness protection policy for providing security to prosecution witnesses.
A Division Bench of Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice G. P. Mittal passed this direction in view of the accused getting acquittals in criminal cases by winning over or threatening witnesses to turn hostile from their police statements during trial.
The Delhi Government “shall immediately and in any event within 10 weeks from today issue a Witness Protection Policy which shall provide the principles and guidelines that the police, the prosecution and executive agencies shall follow,” the Bench said in its order.
“The guidelines shall incorporate the material elements indicated in the various reports of the Law Commission, court directions, and any other recommendations of any official committee in that regard,” the Bench stated.
“In any event, the law enforcement agencies (Police, Central Bureau of Investigation or the National Investigation Agency) shall conduct an assessment of the threat or potential for danger to any witness or witnesses, cited in criminal trials (this shall include the victim of a crime, as well as his or her family member or members, as well as family members of other witnesses),” the order said.
“The assessment would include analysis of the extent the person or persons making the threats appear to have the resources, intent and motive to implement the threats; seriousness and credibility of the threats,” the Bench ordered.
“Depending on the categorisation of threat perception, the agency concerned shall ensure that all appropriate security cover is extended to the witness, victim, or his or her family members for the appropriate duration, i.e. the investigation, trial and post-trial periods,” the Bench said.
“Adequate measures to ensure that the lives of such individuals are free from threat for sufficiently long period or periods, including but not limited to extending security cover to them, shall be taken. The agencies concerned shall also ensure that the witnesses or victims are transported to safety during investigation and trial, and proper security is given to them,” the order said.
“In the event of any change in witness identity, it shall be the responsibility of the state to ensure that the knowledge and details of such move is restricted to the barest minimum number of people, and such new identity is fully protected. Access to such information shall be limited, and all methods of securing it shall be deployed,” the Bench said.
The above directions shall “bind and govern” the Delhi Government till it is replaced by a suitable legislation, the order said.