The Maharashtra government has come out with a draft scheme to protect witnesses in criminal cases.
The government on Friday submitted the “scheme for providing police protection to the witnesses or providing new and different identity to the witness in criminal cases and shifting their residence to other places” to the Bombay high court.
It will take four to six months for the government to issue a notification, Darius Khambata, advocate general, told the court. The draft talks in detail about identifying a weak witness and providing him/her with police protection.
An investigating officer will do the preliminary work — find out if there is a threat to a witness’s life and the chances of him/her turning hostile in court — while a case is on in the sessions court. He will then submit a proposal to the superintendent of police or the deputy commissioner of police seeking police protection for the witness.
If the SP or the DCP feels it is a serious/sensitive case, he can forward a proposal to his senior officer, recommending a new identity and address for the witness. And then this officer will move the session’s court, but only after getting the witness’s consent.
A division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice SS Shinde, however, suggested there was no need for the consent.
The court will take the final call on the proposal. If it feels that a witness should be provided with police protection, it will direct the State Legal Aid Authority to provide the funds.
It will, however, be left to the senior officer to decide how long the protection should last.
The government submitted the draft in connection with a petition filed by an eyewitness, Vijay Jadhav, in the murder of an independent corporator, Sharad alias Appa Leve, from Satara district in 1999. Recently his police protection had been withdrawn.
Advocate PR Runwal, appearing for Jadhav, said sitting MP from Satara Udayanraje Bhosale is an accused in the case. The state had appealed against his acquittal in 2001. That case is still pending in the high court. But the Satara police commissioner has withdrawn Jadhav’s police protection saying there is no threat to his life, Runwal said.