The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre as to why a draft scheme cannot be formulated for witness protection in the country when specific provisions in this regard were already there in the NIA Act.
It said that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) could at least come out with a draft programme for witness protection and asked Attorney General K K Venugopal to give his suggestions on the issue.
“In the NIA (National Investigation Agency) Act, there are specific provisions for witness protection. Why cannot it be there for all?,” a bench comprising justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said.
“We understand there are lakhs of cases but it can be done for sensitive cases. Why cannot the Ministry of Home Affairs make out some draft programme on witness protection?” the bench said.
The apex court also asked all the states to file their reply on the issue of implementation of their respective witness protection programme within six weeks.
Advocate Gaurav Agarwal, who has been appointed as an amicus curiae to assist the court in the matter, told the bench that he has written a letter to the Centre and all the chief secretaries and home secretaries on this issue.
The bench also sought to know from the states about their witness protection programmes and steps taken in this regard.
The issue of witness protection programme had cropped up when the apex court was hearing a PIL seeking protection for witnesses in rape cases involving self-styled preacher Asaram Bapu.
It had asked the petitioners, who are witnesses in case related to Asaram, to implead all the states as party on the issue of witness protection programme.
The petitioners have sought investigation into the instances of attacks and disappearances of witnesses in cases against Asaram.
The apex court had on March 24 questioned Haryana and Uttar Pradesh over the status of implementation of witness protection schemes till now and had directed them to provide security cover to the witnesses in rape cases against Asaram, who is at present in jail.
It had asked Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to provide security to the witnesses residing in their jurisdictions. While UP has three such witnesses, Haryana has one.