The Delhi Government has placed before the Delhi High Court its final approved draft of “Delhi Witness Protection Scheme 2013” for safety and security of witnesses from powerful accused in keeping with its directions in the Jessica Lall and Nitish Katara murder cases.
In an affidavit filed in the court of Chief Justice N. Ramana and Justice Manmohan, the government has enumerated the steps taken by it to put in place guidelines and principles which the police, the prosecution and the executive agencies will follow for protection of witnesses.
In May, while directing prosecution of Bollywood actor Shayan Munshi and a ballistic expert for turning hostile in the sensational Jessica Lall murder case, the High Court had directed the Delhi Government to evolve a witness protection policy to ensure witnesses are not harassed or intimidated by powerful accused in criminal cases.
The scheme, which envisages ‘witness protection fund’, ‘witness protection cell’ and other related provisions would, however, be placed before the Cabinet for approval after the formation of the new government, the affidavit said.
“The draft of ‘Delhi Witness Protection Scheme 2013’ will now be placed before the cabinet soliciting its approval for making the scheme operational and for allocation of budgetary provisions.
“Once the scheme is approved by Cabinet, the same will be submitted to Lieutenant-Governor for his approval after which the scheme will be notified,” the affidavit filed by Additional Secretary (Home) said.
“Since the election to the Delhi Assembly have already been notified, the scheme shall be placed before the Cabinet only after the formation of the new government,” it said.
Threat analysis report
The scheme seeks to enable a witness to give testimony in a judicial setting or to cooperate with law enforcement and investigating agency without fear of intimidation or reprisal. It proposes that a threat analysis report be prepared by Additional Commissioner of Police, DCP or Additional DCP investigating the case on the seriousness and credibility of threat perception to the witness or his family. The scheme has a provision for witness protection fund for bearing the expenses incurred during implementation of witness protection order passed by a court.
The fund, it says, would get a budgetary allocation to be made by government in annual budget, besides receiving donations and be operated by Divisional Commissioner, Delhi.
The scheme also envisages formation of a witness protection cell, which would be a dedicated cell of Delhi Police for protection of witnesses.
It also places witnesses into three categories on basis of threat perception.
The types of protection to be given to witnesses may include not bringing him or her face to face with the accused, mail and phone monitoring, escorting them to and from court, regular patrolling near their residence, giving them emergency contact persons and in-camera trials.
The affidavit says the first meeting for framing the scheme was held on June 25 under the chairmanship of Principal Secretary (Home) and a sub-committee comprising Director of Prosecution, Additional Secretary (Law) will examine all relevant aspects.
It said the draft scheme submitted by the Director of Prosecution was submitted in July to which the Delhi State Legal Services Authority suggested improvements.
In August, a draft scheme was circulated for comments from stakeholders and the Delhi Police had expressed reservations to the same.
In September, all the amendments were made and a final scheme was put in place.