The Uttarakhand government has approved a law to make available various arrangements for the security of witnesses, to define the witness’s ‘family’ to be given security, and the nature of cases in which security cover will be provided.
Sources said the state cabinet on Friday gave its nod to the proposal for the Uttarakhand Sakshi Sanrakshan Adhiniyam, 2020 (Uttarakhand Witness Protection Act, 2020). A senior official in the Home Department said the Act has been made to decide the security arrangements following an order of the Supreme Court to states in this regard. The official said that such security arrangements are aimed to prevent witnesses from turning hostile in criminal cases and increase conviction rates in criminal trials.
Defining the ‘family’ of witness, the proposal says security will be provided to the grandfather, grandmother, parents, brothers, sisters, grandchildren, spouse and children of the witness.
Security will also be provided to witnesses in cases in which the punishment to the guilty amounts to death penalty, life imprisonment, imprisonment of seven or more years, and who are witnesses in cases of IPC section 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 354-A (sexual harassment), 354-B (assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe), 354-C (voyeurism) and 354-D (stalking).
While a gunner may be provided to the witnesses on their requests, more security arrangements under the new Act can be provided to the witness if he/she appeals to a competent authority. Once those security arrangements are sanctioned, it will be ensured that the witness and the accused do not come face-to-face, states the proposal.
It adds that mails and phone calls of witnesses will be monitored and their phone number will be changed. Safety instruments like security gates, CCTV, alarms, fencing etc can be installed at the witness’s residence. For the witness’s security, their name or its spelling can be changed. An emergency contact person will be provided to the witnesses, and a temporary relocation to the residence of any relative or in any nearby city can be effected.
A government vehicle or state-financed vehicle will also be provided to take the witnesses to court for hearing and drop them back to home, the proposal states. Trial will be done in closed room i.e. ‘in camera’. An assistant will be allowed with witness when he/she makes his statement.
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