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SC to direct states for implementation of draft witness protection scheme


SC to direct states for implementation of draft witness protection scheme
Attorney General K K Venugopal told a bench of justices A K Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer that the draft scheme, which has now been finalised, would be made into a law "in due course", but till then the court should direct the states to start implementing it. (Image Credit: Twitter)

The Supreme Court on Monday said that it would direct all the states to implement the draft witness protection scheme framed by the Centre in consultation with the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).

Attorney General K K Venugopal told a bench of justices A K Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer that the draft scheme, which has now been finalised, would be made into a law "in due course", but till then the court should direct the states to start implementing it.

"We will pass an order. We will give directions to all the states to start implementing it (scheme)," the bench told Venugopal.

The issue of the witness protection scheme had cropped up earlier when the top court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking protection for witnesses in rape cases involving self-styled preacher Asaram Bapu.

During the hearing on Monday, advocate Gaurav Agrawal, assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the matter, told the bench that the government has finalised the draft witness protection scheme after discussing it with all the states.

"Based on the inputs received from the majority of the states, a draft witness protection scheme is finalised in consultation with the NALSA," Agrawal told the court.

He said that the scheme has three categories of witnesses based on the threat perception, and the states should start enforcing it.

In April this year, the Centre had informed the top court that it had framed a draft witness protection scheme and it was circulated among the states and Union Territories administration for comments.

The court had asked the Centre to finalise the scheme after getting a response from the states and Union Territories.

In November last year, the court had 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 National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act.

It had said that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) could at least come out with a draft scheme for witness protection and had asked the Attorney General to give his suggestions on the issue.

The court had said that the witness protection scheme can be implemented for at least sensitive cases and the MHA could come out with a comprehensive plan.

The petitioners, who are witnesses in cases related to Asaram, have sought a probe into the instances of alleged attacks and disappearances of witnesses in these cases.

The top court had in March last year questioned Haryana and Uttar Pradesh over the status of implementation of witness protection schemes till then and had directed them to provide security cover to witnesses in rape cases against Asaram, who is at present in jail.

While Uttar Pradesh has three such witnesses, Haryana has one.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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