Nobody should be deprived in defending his case properly only because he is unable to pay the expenses of the witnesses whom he wants to examine, the court said.
While setting aside a direction to a retired public servant facing a confiscation case to deposit the salary for one day of the witnesses concerned for issuance of summons through the court process, the Orissa High Court observed that access to justice, being a constitutional right, cannot be directly or indirectly hampered in any manner.
Laxmidhar Satapathy, who faces trial in a confiscation case, was directed to deposit the salary for one day of the witnesses concerned for issuance of summons through court process. He challenged the said directive before the high court.
Justice SK Sahoo observed that the witnesses sought to be examined were public servants and prayer had been made to produce certain official documents through them which obviously would indicate that those witnesses are to give evidence in their public capacity and not in their private capacity.
It also observed that the government witnesses on being summoned by the court to give evidence in their public capacity will be granted certificates of attendance by the court. “If they produce such certificates, they will not only get their salary for the day but also travelling allowances as would be admissible to them from their authorities. If the delinquent-appellant deposits their one-day salary and it is paid to Govt. witnesses along with the certificates of attendance, then they would get double salary for performance of their duties,” the judge said.
The court also said some of public servants delinquents might have been retired after attending the age of superannuation and their pensionary benefits might have been withheld due to initiation of criminal cases and confiscation proceeding relating to disproportionate assets or otherwise. “In such a situation, asking them to deposit one-day salary of each of the official witnesses they intend to examine would be a painstaking job for them. They would hesitate to give their defence evidence by citing official witnesses apprehending the condition of expenses which is likely to be incurred by them by depositing the salary of the witnesses,” the court added.
It observed: “Nobody should be deprived in defending his case properly only because he is unable to pay the expenses of the witnesses whom he wants to examine. Access to justice is a constitutional right that inheres in every citizen irrespective of his race, class, sex, financial standing or other immutable characteristics which cannot be directly or indirectly hampered in any manner.”