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Report No. 198

5.14 'Ms. Neelam Katara case (Delhi High Court): (2003) Guidelines for witness protection issued:

We shall next refer to the guidelines suggested by the Delhi High Court in Ms. Neelam Katara v. Union of India (Crl. W No. 247 of 2002) on 14.10.2003, as applicable to cases where an accused is punishable with death or life imprisonment. The significance of the guidelines is that they are not confined to cases of rape, or sexual offences or terrorism or organized crime. The Court suggested the following scheme:

Definitions:-(1)

(a) "'Witness' means a person whose statement has been recorded by the Investigating Officer under section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure pertaining to a crime punishable with death or life imprisonment.

(b) 'Accused' means a person charged with or suspected with the commission of a crime punishable with death or life imprisonment.

(c) 'Competent Authority' means the Secretary, Delhi Legal Services Authority.

(d) Admission to protection: The Competent Authority, on receipt of a request from a witness shall determine whether the witness requires police protection, to what extent and for what duration.

(2) Factors to be considered:In determining whether or not a witness should be provided police protection, the Competent Authority shall take into account the following factors:

(i) The nature of the risk to the security of the witness which may emanate from the accused or his associates.

(ii) The nature of the investigation in the criminal case.

(iii) The importance of the witness in the matter and the value of the information or evidence given or agreed to be given by the witness.

(iv) The cost of providing police protection to the witness.

(3) Obligation of the police:

(i) While recording statement of the witness under section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, it will be the duty of the Investigating Officer to make the witness aware of the 'Witness Protection Guidelines' and also the fact that in case of any threat, he can approach the Competent Authority. This, the Investigating Officer will inform in writing duly acknowledged by the witness.

(ii) It shall be the duty of the Commissioner of Police to provide security to a witness in respect of whom an order has been passed by the Competent Authority directing police protection."

The above guidelines laid down by the Delhi High Court are the first of its kind in the country and have to be commended. But, they deal only with one aspect of the matter, namely, protection of the witnesses. They do however not deal with the manner in which a witness's identity can be kept confidential either before or during trial nor to the safeguards which have to be provided to ensure that the accused's right to a fair trial is not jeopardized.



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