Odisha implements Centre’s Witness Protection Scheme

Bhubaneswar: In a major development, the State government has implemented the Centre’s Witness Protection Scheme, 2018 and informed the same to the Orissa High Court. Reportedly, the Apex Court in December last year had approved the Centre’s scheme and ordered that the Union of India as well as States and Union Territories will enforce the witness protection scheme in letter and spirit.

Acting on the directive of the Supreme Court, the State government through a gazette notification on July 6, 2019 mentioned about the Scheme’s implementation.

The Witness Protection Scheme, 2018 (Draft), prepared by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) and Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD), is a first attempt at the National level to holistically provide protection to the witnesses which will go a long way in eliminating secondary victimization. The witnesses being eyes and ears of justice, play an important role in bringing perpetrators of crime to justice. This scheme attempts at ensuring that witnesses receive appropriate and adequate protection.

The scheme says that the application for witness protection would be heard in camera where only necessary people would be allowed to be present. Deposition by the protected witness would be through live video links without being present in the courtroom.

The witness protection scheme essentially involves concealing the identity of the witness faced with threat, prohibits the publication or revealing, in any manner, the identity of the witness during investigation, trial and post-trial stage.

The need for the witness protection scheme was rooted following a petition by a person in 2017 in connection with a murder case in Ganjam district. Following the implementation of the scheme now, the Orissa High Court has directed the aforesaid person to apply for protection under the scheme.