Asaram case shows need for witness protection law
Despite repeated rebukes by the courts, the government is yet to come up with a model law on witness protection that can be enacted by the states.Asaram Verdict Updated: Apr 26, 2018 07:36 IST
Three witnesses were killed during the course of a rape trial against self-styled godman Asaram, underlining the need for a witness protection programme in the country, nearly 12 years after the Law Commission’s recommendations in the matter.
Before a Jodhpur court on Wednesday sentenced Asaram to life in prison after finding him guilty of raping a teenage girl at his ashram, a key witness alleged death threats from the 79-year-old’s supporters. Mahendra Chawla was attacked by two unidentified people in May 2015.
Despite repeated rebukes by the courts, the government is yet to come up with a model law on witness protection that can be enacted by the states.
The law panel had submitted a report to the government in August 2006, recommending both witness and identity protection. Last year, the Supreme Court asked the home ministry to draft a witness protection scheme.
“We understand there are lakhs of cases, but it can be done for sensitive cases. Why can’t the ministry of home affairs make out some draft programme on witness protection?” the apex court had observed.
The National Investigation Agency, too, had recommended to the home ministry to draft a law a few years back.
“Witnesses need protection, especially in terror cases. We had also given details of witness protection regimes in other countries also. The matter is pending with the ministry,” said NR Wasan, who was special director general in NIA before becoming chief of the Bureau of Police Research and Development.
Wasan said that witnesses not only get killed but also turn hostile due to threats from accused.
“The right of the accused for an open trial in his or her presence, being not absolute, the law has to balance that right of the accused as against the need for fair administration of justice in which the victims and witness depose without fear or danger of their lives or property or those of their close relatives,” the law panel had said in its report.