British jurist Jeremy Bentham has said that witnesses are the eyes and ears
of justice. In cases involving influential people, witnesses turn hostile
because of threat to life and property. In Zahira Shiekh and another v. State
2004 (4) SCC 158 SC while defining Fair Trial the court
has said that if the witnesses get threatened or are forced to give false
evidence that also would not result in a fair trial. Thus it is essential to
protect the witness from any threat and coercion
Rights of a witness:
Protection of a witness
- A witness can be called to appear for investigation only within the
limits of his own or any adjoining station. In Krishan Bans Bhadur v. State
of Himachal Pradesh, 1975 Cri LJ 620 (H.P.) it was held that a police
officer conducting an investigation has the power to summon a witness under
Section 160 of the Cr.P.C only if such witness is within the limits of his
own police station or within the limits of an adjoining police station.
- A witness if he is a male under the age of fifteen years or a woman of
any age shall not be asked to attend at any place except where such male
person or woman resides.
- Statement of a witness recorded under section 160 CrPC need not be signed.
- A person cannot be compelled to give statement that incriminates him.
- The witness shall also be provided payment, as per Rules, by the police
officer, if called during instigation or any the court of summoned during a
trial or any proceeding.
If any person who is a witness gets any threat to withdraw the case against
the accused or to give false evidence he can file a complaint with the police or
with the court.
Section 195A of the Indian Penal Code states that whoever threatens another with
any injury to his person, reputation or property or to the person or reputation
of anyone in whom that person is interested, with intent to cause that person to
give false evidence shall be punished with imprisonment of either description
for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both; and if
an innocent person is convicted and sentenced in consequence of such false
evidence, with death or imprisonment for more than seven years, the person who
threatens shall be punished with the same punishment and sentence in the same
manner and to the same extent such innocent person is punished and sentenced.
Since it is a cognzable offence hence the police is duty-bound to register and
FIR immediately. The court may also order for registration of an FIR ona
complaint filed by the witness .
Witness Protection Scheme, 2018
This scheme was launched Central Government for the protection of witness who
gets threat by any person to give false evidence. This was upheld by Supreme
Court in Mahender Chawla vs Union Of India
Writ Petition ( Criminal) No. 156
of 2016) . Its salient features are:
- An application for seeking protection order under this scheme can be
filed in the prescribed form before the District Court where the offence is
- As and when an application is received a Threat Analysis Report be
called from the ACP/DSP in charge of the concerned Police Sub-Division.
- Depending upon the urgency in the matter the Court can pass orders for
interim protection of the witness or his family members during the pendency of
- The Threat Analysis Report shall be prepared expeditiously and filed
within five working days of receipt of the order.
- The Threat Analysis Report shall categorize the threat perception and
also include suggestive protection measures for providing adequate
protection to the witness or his family.
- All the hearings on Witness Protection Application shall be held
in-camera by the court while maintaining full confidentiality.
- During the course of investigation or trial of any offence, an
application for seeking identity protection can be filed in the prescribed
form before the Court
- In appropriate cases, where there is a request from the witness for
change of identity or for relocation and based on the Threat Analysis
Report, a decision can be taken for conferring a new identity to the witness
or for relocation of the witness by the Court.
- In appropriate cases, where there is a request from the witness and
based on the Threat Analysis Report, a decision can be taken for relocation
of the witness by the Competent Authority.
Vulnerable witness Scheme:
- Section 327 (1) Cr.PC states that the inquiry into and trial of rape shall be
conducted in camera ie within closed doors so that the identity of a rape victim
or witness is kept secret.
- The court may allow any particular person to have access to, or be or
remain in, the room or building.
Provided further that in-camera trial shall be conducted as far as
practicable by a woman Judge or Magistrate.
- Any matter in relation to any such proceedings or trial should not be
printed or published , except with the previous permission of the Court.
- Supreme Court in Sakshi v. Union of India and Ors (2004) 5 SCC 518 after
due consideration issued following directions:
- The provisions of sub-section (2) of shall, in addition to the offences
mentioned in the sub-section, also apply in inquiry or trial of offences
under Sections 354 IPC (outraging modesty of a woman) and 377 IPC ( unnatural Sex).
- In holding trial of child sex abuse or rape:
- a screen or some such arrangements may be made where the victim or
witnesses (who may be equally vulnerable like the victim) do not see the
body of the accused.
- the questions put in cross-examination on behalf of the accused, insofar
as they relate directly to the incident, should be given in writing to
- the victim of child abuse or rape, while giving testimony in court,
should be allowed sufficient breaks as and when required.
Thus our legal system has come a long way to protect a witness and ensure a fair
trial. This would certainly encourage the public to come forward as a witness
and contribute to delivering justice.
Written By: Prem Chandra Khanduri,
BSc ( Hons) L.LB, MBA, MA( Psychology) ,
Diploma in Human Rights, LLM Student
Presently working in Delhi Police as Inspector.
Worked in NCB, Narcotic and Crime Branch of Delhi Police and has vast
experience of investigation of a variety of cases.