Dared to speak against crimes, but witnesses worry about safety

  • Charul Shah, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Apr 05, 2015 00:31 IST

In November 2012, the then state government had submitted a draft scheme on the protection of witnesses in sensitive or criminal cases to the Bombay high court (HC). Two years and a change of government later, too, the HC was told in March 2015 that the state is mulling a comprehensive legislation for witness protection. This perhaps explains why a witness in the Pakmodia firing case was recently threatened.

In 2011, shots were fired outside the house of Dawood Ibrahim’s brother — Iqbal Kaskar — at Pakmodia Street, Kamathipura.

While the gangster’s brother was not present at the spot, his driver Arif Sayed Abu Bakr was killed in the firing. Umaid Ishrat Sheikh, a member of the Chhota Rajan gang, has been charged with planning the shootout, while one Abdul Rashad Abdul Rashid Sheikh is a co-accused.

A key witness in the case, who was allegedly asked to keep some arms and ammunition by Rashid Sheikh, has claimed he received threats from the latter’s men in January.

He has alleged that Rashid Sheikh has warned him against identifying or naming him in the court during the trial. The Mumbai crime branch registered a case last week, sources said.

Although the security of witnesses is at stake, the

state seems to be stuck in processes.

In October 2014, the HC had directed the state to frame a fresh witness protection scheme after incorporating provisions for protection of witnesses, including complainants and victims of crime and their family
members, from the stage of investigation.

The court had said that giving protection during investigation is of vital importance, so that the witnesses feel secure when they come before the trial court to record their evidence and directed the government to incorporate a provision, which shall require the investigating officer to record in the case diary, whether a particular witness needs protection or not, before summoning him for a statement. But not much has been done.

Expressing disappointment over the delay, chief public prosecutor Kalpana Chavan said, “I am dealing with a murder case in the sessions court, where a man was killed in the day at a busy public place. The police had recorded the statements of four eyewitnesses.However, at the time of trial, the witnesses have run away. With no protection for witnesses in cases like these or those involving gangsters and terrorists, the witnesses are afraid to come to the court. This leads to acquittals.”

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