Report No. 198
(Q) 3 Who among the following should be made in-charge of the implementation of the entire Witness Protection Programme:
(a) Judicial Officer
(b) Police Officer
(c) Government Department
(d) Autonomous body.
In the responses received to this question, there was no unanimity. 15 responses, however, suggested that the implementation should be with the Judicial Officer. Among these 15 were 4 Police officers, a State Government, a High Court Judge and 9 others; 6 State Governments, 2 Police Officers and 3 others suggested that a Government Department must be in charge. 8 persons, including 2 Police Officers, a State Government and a High Court Judge and 4 others) suggested it should be under an autonomous body. Six respondents (including 2 State Governments, 3 Police Officers, a trial Judge) suggested that a Police Officer be in charge.
In the Witness Protection Programme, the control ultimately must be with Judicial officers. The Police may decide which witness requires to be placed under the Witness Protection Programme but it must be for the Magistrate to decide whether a witness has to be admitted to the programme. The expenditure incurred for the grant of different identity, relocation, maintenance, transport, accommodation etc. must be met by the Union and the State Governments jointly, because we are dealing with serious crimes listed in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 which is a Central statute though the offence is committed within the territories of a State.
The Chief Justice of the State High Court must be the Patron-in-chief of the Witness Protection Programme and he may administer the fund through the State Legal Aid Authority, which is constituted for each High Court and which is headed by a High Court Judge.
Whenever a Magistrate, upon an application by the District Superintendent of Police or Commissioner of Police or the Public Prosecutor, passes an order admitting a witness to the Witness Protection Programme, the order should be communicated to the State Legal Aid Authority and the latter should issue appropriate directions to the District Legal Services Authority, for release of funds for the purpose of implementing the order. Out of the amount allocated to the State Legal Aid Authority, a certain amount must, therefore, be set apart for funding the witness Protection Programmes.
For this purpose, if necessary, an amendment may be carried into the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to say that the Chief Justice of the High Court shall be the Patron-in-chief of the Programme that the State Legal Aid Authority and the District Legal Aid Authority shall exercise the powers and perform duties assigned to them under the Witness Protection Programmes, including the administration of funds allocated for that purpose by the said Governments.