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Report No. 198

Summary:

Summing up the position, it will be seen that there are various facets of the criminal trial, namely, there is a right to open trial for the benefit of the accused and the public have a right to know about the conduct of the trial, and the accused has a right to have the trial conducted in his presence. But these rights are not absolute.

There are conflicting privacy rights of the victims of sexual offences violation of which by the media or others are subject to punishment. There are provisions for keeping identity of witnesses confidential when the police files its charge sheet in the Court. There are special statutes relating to trial of terrorists which contain provisions for protection of identity of witnesses, whose identity must be kept secret during inquiries as well as trials.

There are recommendations of the Law Commission that in cases of sexual offences, a screen may be put between a victim (while the victim deposes) and the accused, so that the victim is more free and uninhibited while giving evidence. Finally the Supreme Court, in its Sakshi judgment, extended the procedures involving video-conferencing (a video circuit system) and the giving of a list of questions to the victims or witnesses, and stated that these procedures do not violate the principle of the accused's right to an open trial in his immediate presence.

Barring the above special offences, the law as far as witness protection and victim identity protection is concerned, has not yet been extended to cover the cases of other serious offences where lives of witnesses or their close relatives or their properties may be equally in danger. So far such protection is confined to special cases of terrorism and sexual offences etc. Question is about extending such protection to cases of inquiries and trails of other serious offences. In fact, the extension of witness identity protection to other cases of serious offences was part of Question No.3 in the Questionnaire attached to the Consultation Paper.

Before considering the question of extending witness protection to witnesses in other cases relating to serious offences, we shall refer to the various responses received to the questions in the Questionnaire annexed to the Consultation Paper.



Witness Identity Protection and Witness Protection Programmes Back




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