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Report No. 198

(Q) 6. Should there be a preliminary inquiry by the Judge on the question whether the case of a witness is a fit one where anonymity should be granted or not? In such a preliminary inquiry should the identity and address of the witness be kept secret? Should the accused or his lawyer be heard at that stage on the question of danger to life or property of the witness or relatives or, should it be an ex parte inquiry in camera? Will it serve any useful purpose in giving opportunity to the accused/defence lawyer, particularly where the identity and address cannot be revealed in such preliminary inquiry?

As stated above, anonymity to a witness can only be given when there is danger to the life or property of witness or his relations. In order to determine the need of anonymity and existence of such a danger question is whether Judge should hold a preliminary inquiry? And if so, whether accused or his lawyer be heard or it should be an ex parte inquiry in camera?

Among the 40 responses, which the Commission has received on this issue, 24 (7 Senior Police Officers, 5 State Governments 3 Judges and 9 others) are of the view that there should be a preliminary inquiry by the Judge. State Governments of Manipur, and Meghalaya, D.G. Police Manipur and also of Punjab are of the view that such preliminary inquiry is needed only in exceptional cases, and not in all cases. State Governments of Punjab and also of Orissa have opined that such preliminary inquiry be done by Police Officers and not by the Judge.

However, 10 respondents (State Government of Jharkhand, D.G. Police of Gujarat State and 8 others) are not in favour of any such preliminary inquiry.

Most of the respondents who are in favour of holding such preliminary inquiry are of the view that in such inquiry, identity of the witness should be kept secret and it should be done ex parte in camera.

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