Cautioning the state government against any attempts at watering down its proposed Witness Protection Schemes Act, the Bombay high court on Monday directed the state must extend the benefits of the protection scheme to investigating officers and other police personnel who act as witnesses in any case as well.
A bench of justice AS Oka and justice CV Bhadang directed the state government must ensure that the benefits of its proposed protection scheme are extended not just to whistle-blowers, but also to witnesses including police officers in all cases and not only in “highly sensitive cases” as currently proposed by the state.
The bench has given the state a week’s time to consider the court’s directions and decide upon amending its draft bill.
The bench was hearing a suo moto Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and the directions came after the additional government pleader, advocate Nitin Deshpande submitted a copy of the state’s revised draft bill to the court.
According to the current draft, the scheme will primarily protect private individuals who are the prosecution’s witnesses in any case, whistle-blowers and RTI activists. And benefits of the scheme will be extended to investigating officers only in “sensitive or serious” cases.
However, in March last year, the high court had directed the state to extend the scope of the scheme and to ensure the witnesses and whistle-blowers are protected even after a trial concludes.
The court had also said at the time that the term ‘witness’ must include not only those who are going to depose in courts, but also those who possess information and documents related to any crime.