An MBA student was allegedly abducted outside the Great India Place Mall in Noida and raped by 11 men in January 2009.
The victim’s friend and the sole eyewitness, Anand (name changed), was forced to move the Supreme Court to seek transfer of the case from Noida to Delhi after being threatened by the accused. The SC on February 3, 2012, transferred the trial to the Capital.
But Anand is not the only witness to have received threats from the accused he was supposed to testify against, said advocate Arvind Kumar Gupta, who represented him in court.
“Witnesses are said to be the ‘eyes and ears’ of justice. But increasingly, they are being threatened and made to subvert justice and save perpetrators from the clutches of law. Rape cases are no exception. If crucial witnesses turn hostile due to fear or inducement, no court can convict a rapist," Gupta said.
It has been over nine years since the Delhi high court issued a series of guidelines for the protection of witnesses in October 2003. The guidelines, issued on a petition filed by Neelam Katara — whose son was abducted and killed in 2002 — were to remain in effect till a suitable law was enacted.
But the situation has hardly changed, said Katara.
“In most cases, the witnesses don’t seek protection because they don’t have faith in the police and the system. They know the trial will go on for 10-15 years and the accused will get bail. You have to ensure complete identity protection of the witnesses as is done in many Western countries.” She said the remedy lies in ensuring speeding trial.
However, senior counsel KTS Tulsi said providing personal security guards to witnesses is not a solution. “In India, we do not have any witness protection programme like those in many Western countries. It involves huge funds. So long as we do not have such a programme, we should use Criminal Procedure Code provisions that provide for concealing the identity of the witnesses.”