Terming witnesses as the “most neglected segment” in the criminal justice system, the Law Ministry has said a 13-year-old report held the key to insulating them from harassment and minimising inconvenience caused during trial.
“Witnesses are a critical constituent in the process of administration of criminal justice. They discharge an important public function by assisting courts in seeking the truth. Unfortunately, the ground reality is that witnesses are also the most neglected segment in the criminal justice system,” the ministry has said.
The remarks figuring in ‘procedures relating to witnesses’ is part of a Law Ministry note prepared for the meeting of the Advisory Council of National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms to be held on Tuesday.
Referring to the observations of the Justice V S Malimath Committee in its report on Reforms of Criminal Justice System in 2003, the note states that there is a growing tendency of subjecting witnesses and their family members to serious threats to life, abduction or rape, damaging the witnesses’ property or harming the person’s image and interest in other ways.
Recalling a major recommendation of the Malimath panel, the Law Ministry document states that to minimise inconvenience to witnesses and save time, the evidence of certain types of witnesses like medical witnesses, government scientific experts and officers should be tendered in the form of affidavits and any challenge to the same by the opposite party should be by means of a counter affidavit.
The Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 2008 added a new section 195A to the CrPC to allow a witness or any person acting on behalf of the witness to file complaint in case of an offence under section 195A of Indian Penal Code, which relates to threatening a witness to give false evidence.