The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Court cover for witnesses

New Delhi, Oct. 14 (PTI): Delhi High Court today issued guidelines to police on protecting witnesses to curb the menace of witnesses turning hostile, leading to acquittals of accused in heinous crimes.

The guidelines assume significance in view of the Supreme Court’s displeasure expressed in the Best Bakery case, in which all 21 accused were acquitted after witnesses turned hostile.

The Gujarat government was accused of not protecting the witnesses.

A bench of Justices Usha Mehra and Pradeep Nandrajog passed the decision on a petition filed by Neelam Katara. Her son Nitish was kidnapped from a marriage party in Ghaziabad and killed last February, allegedly by Rajya Sabha MP D.P. Yadav’s son Vikas and nephew Vishal.

The high court directed the Delhi government to publicise the guidelines for people’s benefit. It said the guidelines would be in force till the enactment of a suitable legislation.

The member-secretary of the Delhi Legal Services Authority would be the competent authority to decide “whether a witness requires police protection, to what extent and for what duration”, on receipt of the witness’s request, the court said.

The protection, however, will be available only to witnesses who are to depose in cases attracting death sentence or life imprisonment.

In deciding on granting protection, the competent authority “shall” have to consider the nature of risk to the witness’ security, emanating from the accused or his associates, and the nature of probe or criminal case.

The authority shall also consider the importance of the witness and the value of evidence given or agreed to be given by him, besides the cost of giving protection to him.

While recording the statement of a witness under CrPC section 161, the investigating officer would be bound by duty to make the witness aware of the guidelines and ask him to approach the competent authority if faced with any threat, the court said.

Once the competent authority decides, it “shall” be the police commissioner’s duty to provide protection, the bench said.

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