Report No. 198
Consultation Paper on Witness Identity Protection and Witness Protection Programmes
Consultation Paper on Witness Protection
This is a summary of the contents of the various chapters in this Consultation Paper.
Chapter .- Introduction
There are two broad aspects to the need for witness protection. The first is to ensure that evidence of witnesses that has already been collected at the stage of investigation is not allowed to be destroyed by witnesses resiling from their statements while deposing on oath before a court. This phenomenon of witnesses turning `hostile' on account of the failure to `protect' their evidence is one aspect of the problem.
This in turn would entail special procedures to be introduced into the criminal law to balance the need for anonymity of witnesses on the one hand and the rights of the accused, on the other, for an open public trial with a right to crossexamination of the witnesses, after knowing all details about witnesses.
The other aspect is the physical and mental vulnerability of the witness and to the taking care of his or her welfare in various respects which call for physical protection of the witness at all stages of the criminal justice process till the conclusion of the case, by the introduction of witness protection programmes.
While the first aspect of protecting the evidence of witnesses from the danger of their turning 'hostile' has received limited attention at the hands of Parliament in some special statutes dealing with terrorism, there is an urgent need to have a comprehensive legislative scheme dealing with the second aspect of physical protection of the witness as well. Further, both aspects of anonymity and witness protection will have to be ensured in all criminal cases involving grave crimes not limited to terrorist crimes.
The implementation of such a law would involve drawing up (a) procedures for granting anonymity to witnesses and also (b) introducing Witness Protection Programmes as well in which personal protection is granted to the witness; sometimes by shifting the witness to a different place or even a different country; or by providing some money for maintenance or even by providing employment elsewhere. These are all the various aspects for discussion in this Consultation Paper.
The Law Commission has taken up the subject suo motu on account of the observations of the Supreme Court in certain important cases and also because of immediate importance of the subject in our country. The Commission has prepared this Consultation Paper in order to invite responses from all sections of society. After receiving the responses, it will make its final recommendations possibly along with a draft Bill.