Report No. 198
Need for extension of Victim Identity Protection generally to cases of serious offences triable by Court of Session
Having referred to the responses to the Questionnaire, we shall now deal with some of the important issues.
The subject of this chapter is important and is part of Question No.3 of the Questionnaire.
In Chapters II and III, we have traced the development of the procedure in criminal law in relation to inquiries and trials in Courts. We have seen that while there are some general provisions with regard to open public trial and the right of the accused to have the witnesses against him or her examined in his or her presence, these rights of the accused are not treated as absolute.
There are indeed specific types of special cases of protection to (a) victims in sexual offences against publicity, (b) victims and witnesses in cases of terrorist acts, in respect of their identity during inquiries and trials. In the case of sexual offences, the Supreme Court in Sakshi agreed that using video-screens cannot be treated as diluting the right of the accused for examination of witnesses in the presence of the accused.
But barring these special provisions, the legislature has not so far actively considered the problems of victim protection and witness identity protection during inquiries and trial in the case of witnesses deposing in 'serious offences' such as murder, dowry deaths, rape, offences against the State, kidnapping, abduction, mischief by fire or explosives, dacoity, etc. falling within the Indian Penal Code, 1860 which are triable by Courts of Session where their lives or property may be equally in danger.
It appears to be accepted today that such protection to victims and witnesses can no longer be confined to special cases of terrorists or sexual offences against women and juveniles because even in the case of grave offences like murder, dowry-deaths, rape, dacoity, kidnapping and abduction etc., there can be serious problems for victims and witnesses who give evidence in inquiries or trials.