For sake of witnesses, all judicial officers told to hold day-to-day trial or face adverse remarks in ACR
Observing that witnesses are required to be shown utmost respect and their dignity has to be maintained during investigation and trial, the Uttarakhand High Court has passed a string of directions, including payment of reasonable travel allowance on date of recording of statement, adequate protection, installation of security devices like CCTVs and security doors in their houses to ensure their protection.
A bench of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Alok Singh and directed the state government to frame rules under Section 54 of the Uttarakhand Police Act, 2007 (dealing with protection of witnesses) within six months and also make suitable amendment in the Indian Penal Code to punish the persons inducing any witness to give false statement.
Taking note of the minutest of detail on how the witnesses do not even have any place to sit while waiting for their turn to depose, the court has also directed all judicial officers in the state to hold day-to-day trial noting that “unnecessary adjournments are given by the trial courts prolonging the trial and causing mental agony to the witnesses”.
The bench passed the directions while hearing the appeals of three lifers punished by the trial court for murdering a youth named Monu Mishra in July, 2008, due to strained family ties.
The court noted that youth named Manoj, who was with Monu at the time of the incident and who had testified about the incident and recognized the convicts, was cross-examined after a long gap of nine months leading to some contradictions in his statement. Two of the witnesses had turned hostile.
While upholding the conviction and sentence of the three appellants, the high court said, “The Court can take judicial notice of the fact that the trials are not concluded expeditiously. The accused tried to influence the witnesses. The witnesses are threatened of dire consequences. The witnesses are always under threat by the accused. In the instant case also, two witnesses were declared hostile, since they have not supported the case of the prosecution in entirety. The cross-examination of PW1 Manoj was done after nine months. There is urgent need to provide protection to the witnesses to enable them to depose fearlessly.”
The court also noted that the State of Uttarakhand, in a very progressive manner, enacted the Uttarakhand Police Act, 2007 which contains Section 54 qua witness protection and anonymity but it has not framed any rules to give effect to Section 54 of the Act, 2007 for witness protection as a measure of Human Rights Protection.
Emphasising on the need to show respect and give protection to witnesses, the bench passed directions as under:
Before passing these directions, the bench noted that “According to the 4th Report of the National Police Commission, 1980, the Police Commission has referred to the meager daily allowances payable to witnesses for an appearance in the Courts. It referred to a sample survey carried out in 18 Magistrates’ Courts in one State, which revealed that out of 96,815 witnesses, who attended the Courts during the particular period, only 6,697 were paid some allowance and even for such payment, an elaborate procedure had to be gone through”.