Report No. 198
3.5 POTA 2002:
Section 30 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 enacted recently, is on the same lines as section 16 of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 referred to above. It reads as follows:
"30. Protection of witnesses.- (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code, the proceedings under this Act may, for reason to be recorded in writing, be held in camera if the Special Court so desires.
(2) A Special Court, if on an application made by a witness in any proceeding before it or by the Public Prosecutor in relation to such witness or on its own motion, is satisfied that the life of such witness is in danger, it may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, take such measures as it deems fit for keeping the identity and address of such witness secret.
(3) In particular, and without prejudice to the generality of the provisions of sub-section (2), the measures which a Special Court may take under that sub-section may include-
(a) the holding of the proceedings at a place to be decided by the Special Court;
(b) the avoiding of the mention of the names and addresses of the witnesses in its orders or judgments or in any records of the case accessible to public;
(c) the issuing of any directions for securing that the identity and address of the witnesses are not disclosed;
(d) a decision that it is in the public interest to order that all or any of the proceedings pending before such a Court shall not be published in any manner.
(4) Any person who contravenes any decision or direction issued under sub-section (3) shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year and with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees."
The validity of section 30 has been upheld in PUCL v. Union of India: 2003(10) SCALE 967 which will be referred to in detail in Chapter V, para 5.15.
3.6 As already stated in the previous Chapter (para 2.3.3), there is yet another special statute, the Juvenile (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, section 21 which prohibits the publication of name, address or school or any other particulars calculated to lead to the identification of the juvenile. It also prohibits the publication of the picture of any such juvenile.
3.7 Present need for a general law on Protection of identity of witnesses even in cases which do not relate to terrorism or disruptive activities.
The above analysis of the state of the statute law, both the general and special law, shows that there is no general law on protection of identity of witnesses in criminal case.- apart from the provisions for protection of witnesses in the special statutes governing terrorist-crimes, such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 etc. In recent times, the cases where witnesses are turning hostile at trial due to threats, is no longer confined to cases of terrorism. Even in other types of offences falling under the Indian Penal Code or other special statute, this phenomenon has reached alarming proportion.
There is therefore need, as in other countries, to generally empower the Court in such case.- where muscle power, political power, money power or other methods employed against witnesses and victim.- for the purpose of protecting the witnesses so that witnesses could give evidence without any fear of reprisals and witnesses do not turn hostile on account of threats by the accused. That, indeed, is the purpose of this Consultation Paper.