Draft witness protection scheme circulated with states, Centre tells SC

Photo: ANI

The Centre on Friday informed the Supreme Court that it has framed a draft witness protection scheme in consultation with the Bureau of Police Research and Development and NALSA.

The Centre told the court that the draft has been circulated for comments from the states.

The top court asked the union government to finalise the scheme after getting response from the state government.

A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan directed all the state governments to furnish their comments by May 13 and asked the Centre to finalise the programme.

"We expect that all the states furnish their comments on the draft witness protection scheme by May 13. After receiving the comments the draft scheme shall be finalised," the bench said.

The apex court posted the matter for further hearing in August.

During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand informed the court that Centre has already framed a draft witness protection scheme, which has been circulated with the state governments for comments.

Advocate Gaurav Agrawal, who was appointed as amicus curiae to assist the court in the matter, said the draft was circulated with the states on March 22 and their comments were sought by April 11, due to the hearing in the apex court.

He sought some time to enable the states to file their response.

The bench said that states can furnish their comments in next month by May 13 and posted the matter for further hearing in August.

It gave liberty to amicus curiae to file any suggestions to the scheme, if necessary.

On November 17, the apex court had asked Centre as to why a draft scheme cannot be formulated for witness protection in the country when specific provisions in this regard were already there in the NIA Act.

It had said that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) could at least come out with a draft programme for witness protection and asked Attorney General K K Venugopal to give his suggestions on the issue.

The apex court had said that witness protection scheme can be implemented for at least sensitive cases and MHA could come out with a comprehensive plan.

The issue of witness protection programme had cropped up when the apex court was hearing a PIL seeking protection for witnesses in rape cases involving self-styled preacher Asaram Bapu.

It had asked the petitioners, who are witnesses in case related to Asaram, to implead all the states as party on the issue of witness protection programme.

The petitioners have sought investigation into the instances of attacks and disappearances of witnesses in cases against Asaram.

The apex court had on March 24 questioned Haryana and Uttar Pradesh over the status of implementation of witness protection schemes till now and had directed them to provide security cover to the witnesses in rape cases against Asaram, who is at present in jail.

It had asked Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to provide security to the witnesses residing in their jurisdictions. While UP has three such witnesses, Haryana has one.

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