Cuttack: The state government has informed the Orissa High Court that it has already implemented the Centre’s Witness Protection Scheme, 2018.
This was revealed during the hearing of a petition filed by one Sadasiba Swain. The petitioner sought the court’s protection for his life and property as he was a witness in a murder case in Ganjam district’s Kodala police station area .
Acting on the petition, the HC had sought the the state government’s response on the status of the implementation of the Supreme Court order.
On Monday, the state counsel, Bibhu Prasad Tripathy, informed the court that the Odisha government had implemented the apex court order by way of a gazette notification of its Witness Protection Scheme-2019 on July 6.
On the basis of this information, the HC bench of Justice Biswajit Mohanty asked the petitioner to approach the competent authority in the district concerned for protection under the scheme.
The scheme entrusts the protection of a witness to the district standing committee, which is led by the District and Sessions Judge as its chairperson. The district SP is a member and the head of prosecution is its member secretary.
The scheme aims to ensure that the investigation, prosecution and trial of criminal offences are not prejudiced because witnesses are intimidated or frightened to give evidence without protection from other criminal forces.
According to the state government’s notification, the scheme includes three categories of witnesses as per threat perception.
Category A: Those cases where threat extends to the life of the witness or family members during the investigation, trial or even thereafter.
Category B: Those cases where the threat extends to safety, reputation or property of the witness or family members during the investigation or trial.
Category C: Cases where the threat is moderate and extends to harassment or intimidation of the witness or his family members, reputation or property during the investigation, trial or thereafter.
The important features of the scheme include protective measures such as ensuring that the witness and the accused do not come face to face during probe, protection and change of identity, relocation of the witness, confidentiality and preservation of records and recovery of expenses among others.
Notably, the Supreme Court, while endorsing the Central scheme on December 5, 2108, had directed all states and Union Territories to implement it strictly.