India

Woman who fought criminals living in fear; witness protection debate rages

  • Avantika Mehta, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • |
  • Updated: Jan 29, 2015 07:46 IST

Representative Photo/Thinkstock


A brave 21-year-old woman who chased away six criminals and knocked down two of them is now living in fear.

Barely two weeks after the incident, Kavita (name changed) broke down in a Delhi court.

"My brother is getting threatening calls," Kavita, who is worried about her family members' safety, told additional sessions Judge Kamini Lau.

Kavita even refused to identify the accused Monu in court during her examination. She added her father was also receiving menacing phone calls from associates of the accused.

While recording her testimony, the young woman said, "My father is an old man and I cannot proceed with this case."

A further probe by the court caused the frazzled young woman, who stood up against criminals who tried to snatch her chain, to break down.

Taking note, the judge immediately called for the policemen in charge and ordered them to "provide suitable protection to the witness and her family".

However, safety concerns of witness is an ongoing issue which continues to plague the judicial system, experts say.

Despite a 2006 Law Commission of India report calling for the implementation of witness protection schemes, the idea remains just a pipe dream, says Ranjana Kumari, director of Centre for Social Research.

"In the absence of protection and a time bound trial, the victims -- who anyway face repeatedly scrutiny from the courts -- are often intimidated to the point that most cases, especially sexual assault, don't reach trial stage," she tells HT.

"This, most certainly, is one of the main reasons for the rising crime rate in the country," retired Delhi HC Judge SN Dhingra said.

"Without a statute calling for protection of witnesses, many cases - especially against criminal gangs - don't even reach trial as witnesses get scared or killed."

Kavita was riding her motorbike late last year when a gang of six men in three motorcycles surrounded her and tried to rob her. Showing incredible presence of mind, she rammed her vehicle into one of the bikes and caused the two men on it to fall to the ground.

The commotion from this incident attracted others who helped the braveheart apprehend one of her attackers - but not before he hit her in the face with a briefcase. Police later discovered that the accused Monu had several other cases against him and was a habitual criminal.

 

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