December 07, 2018

SC approves draft witness protection scheme framed by Centre in consultation with NALSA

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Supreme Court Of India

On December 5, the Supreme Court of India approved the draft witness protection scheme framed by the Centre in consultation with the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) and asked all states and union territories to implement it until Parliament passes a legislation. The Apex Court stated that until Parliament passes a legislation, this scheme would be the law of the land. An SC bench headed by Justice A K Sikri and comprising Justice S. Abdul Nazeer informed that they have made certain changes in the scheme.

Earlier, on November 19, considering the issue of the witness protection scheme, the Supreme Court had stated that it will direct all states to implement the scheme.

Responding to the court, Attorney General K K Venugopal had then said that the draft scheme, which has now been finalized, would be made into law "in due course", but till then, the court should direct the states to start implementing it.

In response, the court had said, "We will pass an order. We will give directions to all the states to start implementing it (scheme)."

Thereafter, assisting the court as amicus curiae, Advocate Gaurav Agrawal had said, "Based on the inputs received from majority of the states, a draft witness protection scheme is finalized in consultation with NALSA." Agrawal had added that there are three categories of witnesses in this scheme based on threat perception and that the states should start enforcing it.

The decision to formulate the draft witness protection scheme stems from a case wherein the Supreme Court was hearing a PIL seeking protection for witnesses in rape cases involving self-styled religious leader (Godman) Asaram Bapu.

On November 17, 2017, the top court had sought to know why a draft witness protection scheme can’t be formulated for the country when such provisions were already part of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act.

The court had then said, “In the NIA (National Investigation Agency) Act, there are specific provisions for witness protection. Why cannot it be there for all?”

The court had added, “We understand that there are lakhs of cases but it can be done for sensitive cases. Why cannot the Ministry of Home Affairs make out some draft program on witness protection?”

Thereafter, the court had directed all states to file their response on the issue of the implementation of their respective witness protection program.

Subsequently, in April 2018, the Centre had notified the court that it had framed a draft witness protection scheme and that it was circulated among the states and Union Territories administration for comments. The court had then informed the Centre to finalize the scheme after receiving the comments.

To view the Draft Witness Protection Scheme which was framed by the Centre on 02/05/2018, please view the file attached herein.

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