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Key Takeaways

  • Protectors of the people are not adequately protected by the law.
  • If the witness and advocates are protected, then why not judges?
  • The quality of implementation is as important as existence of a law.
  • The importance of rights of judges should be kept above common man as they are protectors of rights of the people.
  • The article elaborately discusses the need of protection for the people involved in a judicial fight for justice.

Introduction

The world is a place filled with people of many categories. Some people can be considered kind and good hearted whereas some are the opposite and only think for themselves. In the eyes of law, even though everyone is equal but there still continues the difference of good and bad people, i.e. normal citizens and the law breakers or criminals.

When we talk about protection, protection is required for everyone; even the bad citizens. But this article specifically focuses on the protection of the people involved in a judicial matter, i.e. the judges, advocates, witnesses and victims of a case. Irrespective of what the governments or reports say, the country has numerous hooligans, corrupt officials and criminals that we as normal people cannot recognize. And the question of safety against these bad citizens is very important to be addressed.

Judges’ Protection

Judges are the top most level in a case, in the sense he is the supreme authority to decide the dispute between two parties. So why would they require protection and from whom? The parties involved in the case are the most dangerous to the judicial proceedings.

In a recent case, a judge from Dhanbad, who dealt with granting bails to gangsters, was murdered in broad daylight and the matter is being investigated, but the prima facie CCTV footage of the accident shows that it might not be an accident at all. It seems like a case of murder. Similarly years back, Justice Loya died of heart attack, which is not confirmed yet. The doctors involved in the case say that he died of a heart attack but the statements and facts do not add up and it creates a suspicion in the minds of the people.

The judges are mostly given bribes to decide the case in their favour and if that does not happen, then they are threatened of facing repercussions of not abiding by the demands of the party. Now, there are no cases of physical abuse of the judges because of the high security that is provided but their family is subjected to dangerous situations and also there have been instances where they are not surrounded by security and people try to harm them. There is a Judges (Protection) Act, 1985 but the efficacy of that in preventing and protecting the judges from these kinds of threats is still not certain.

Victims’ and Witnesses’ Protection

The most susceptible people are the victims in a case. The victims of crime already have to go through torture at the hands of the culprit and they are the most valuable asset to the case of prosecution.So they are the easiest target for anyone who does not want the prosecution to win the case and give justice to the victim.

The victims and the witnesses and their families are threatened with dire consequences of reporting a crime or appearing before the Court. Some accused even go to the extent of kidnapping the victims or the witnesses or someone dear to them and the ransom is asked, not in terms of money but rather in terms of giving false statement before the Court or not telling anyone of the incident. This hinders the fair trial practice in the judicial system.

A Dalit woman was raped in a small village of Uttar Pradesh. When she approached the police to file an FIR, the police refused to register the FIR as the accused was a local political leader. The victim approached the Court and the Court ordered the police to register an FIR and then proceed with investigation. The victim and her husband on the other hand, were constantly threated by the accused and had to run away from their village.

The influential and people with power, tend to misuse their power to save themselves and their relatives from being prosecuted by various means. Some try to bribe the judges whereas some try to threaten the victims or witnesses or even murder them. When there is no evidence or witness to prove the case of the prosecution, the accused is acquitted due to the principle of proving the case beyond reasonable doubt.

The Witness Protection Scheme of 2018 was enacted to ensure that witnesses do not turn hostile. The Supreme Court in the case of of Zahira Habibullah Sheikh and Anr. v. State of Gujarat and Ors, stated that when the witnesses are threatened to give false evidence, then it would not amount to a fair trial.

In extreme cases, the Scheme envisages means of ensuring witness life/safety in events ranging from; providing a police escort to a witness up to the Courtroom or using audio video means for recording testimony of such witness to steps ensuring anonymity, temporary residence in a safe house, providing new identity, relocation of witnesses, and so on. The filing of an application in the appropriate form before the competent authority of the concerned District, through its Member Secretary, is the starting point for a Witness Protection Order, according to the Scheme.

The protection provided is just for a period of three months at a time. Second, the recommendations/ advice provided in TAR(s) by concerned police personnel, who are often prone to corruption, superior/ political pressures, and other factors, appear to constitute the foundation of orders that may be passed under the Scheme. Moreover, while the Scheme provides for secrecy and the preservation of records, it does not include any penalties for such violations.

Advocates’ Protection

The advocates are endangered by the parties themselves, or by anyone with an interest in the matter. In some cases, the party threatens the advocate of terrible repercussions if the expected decision is not received from the Court. What would be the leverage against the advocates? It would be the family of the advocates.

Assault, criminal force, intimidation, and different threats are made against them and their family. When an advocate is involved in a party’s case, the other party threatens the advocate to not provide his services. Advocates have been assaulted in the course of performing their professional duties in the past. The advocates face hostile prosecution by the opposing party in order to stall the procedures and the administration of justice.

The Advocates’ Protection Bill of 2021 has been incorporated in order to provide protection to the advocates from the mental and physical torture that they have to go through. There are provisions for a redressal committee, proper investigation and also the Bill has the provision to protect the advocate from suits which would effectively prevent malicious prosecution attempts from the opposition party.

Conclusion

India has undoubtedly come a long way in terms of safeguarding the protection and security of witnesses, who are an important element of the criminal justice system. However, the lack of a statutory mechanism with harsh punitive consequences may leave the entire mechanism, which was adopted through the judicial process, in limbo. As a result, simply stating the existence of effective and strict legislation is insufficient. It is high time for the state to assume the function of parenspatriae and enact comprehensive legislation in this regard. Only then will the stream of justice be allowed to flow freely and without hindrance.


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