Report No. 198
(Q) 10. At the trial, if the Judge is satisfied about the danger to the witness, should the recording of statement of the witness be made in such a manner that the witness and the accused do not see each other and the Judge, the prosecutor and the defence counsel alone see him (using two cameras)? Should the witness who is shown on the videoscreen be visible only to the Judge, prosecutor and the defence counsel? Should the taking of photographs in Court by others be banned?
As per section 273 of the Cr.P.C., 1973, trial is to be conducted in the presence of the accused. When a witness is granted anonymity, and he is asked to depose in the presence of accused, his identity will be known to the accused. Therefore, it is necessary that in such cases the statement of the witness is recorded in such a manner that the witness and the accused do not see each other. For this purpose either a screen may be erected or video conferencing facility may be followed.
Most of the respondents, except a few, are in favour of the proposals made in this question.
One Judge of A.P. High Court, has stated that ours is a poor country and cannot afford the luxury of engaging cameras and video-screen in each and every case where a witness expresses danger to his life. He further states that the time is not ripe in the Indian conditions to show the witness on video screen only to the Judge, prosecutor and defence counsel.
An Advocate who is also a member of the Maharashtra State Law Commission, has opined that recording of statement of a witness, in the absence of the accused or through video screen is not practicable in India and the existing system is to be continued. However, in certain circumstances, the place of trial can be fixed where danger to the life and property of the witness is less. In certain circumstances, statement of a witness can be recorded in the presence of defence lawyer only and the accused be not permitted to attend the same.
Another Advocate from Hyderabad has stated that at the time of trial the witness, the accused should be visible to each other, otherwise it will be violation of section 273 of the Cr.P.C.