The bench comprising Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Harinder Singh Sidhu, issued guidelines of to record witness statement by electronic medium in the matter of Abhijeet Singh who was convicted in a murder case, .
The bench considering the various judgements, which has observed “witness turned hostile” issued directions. Out of the various other related judgements, in the matter of Ramesh and others vs State of Haryana, (2017) court said that “witnesses turning hostile may be described as culture of compromise”.
The Bench said “The witnesses are the integral part of the administration of justice”, also said that:
“The witnesses are required to be shown utmost respect and their dignity has to be maintained during the course of investigation and at the time of trial. The entire system is required to be sensitized. Since the witnesses are under constant threat, there is an increasing tendency of turning them hostile.”
The bench issued directions in order to ensure the protection of the witnesses in criminal cases:
1. All the trial Courts through State of Punjab are directed to comply with mandate of Section 309 Cr.P.C. and to examine the eye witnesses expeditiously on day-to-day basis / continuous basis. Adjournments for next day shall be granted only after recording cogent, convincing and special reasons.
2. The Reporting Officers are directed to enter adverse remarks in Annual Confidential Reports of the Judicial Officers who do not hold the trial on day-to-day basis.
3. The State of Punjab is directed to make suitable amendments in the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure to punish the persons inducing, threatening and pressurizing any witness to give false statement, within three months.
4. The State of Punjab is also directed that all the witnesses should be paid reasonable amount as travelling allowance on the date of recording of their statement and if the statement spills over to the next date, the boarding and lodging of the witnesses should be provided by the State Government from State Exchequer.
5. The State of Punjab is also directed that the material witnesses in heinous and sensitive matters are insured on shortterm or long term basis to enable them to fearlessly testify before the Court and also protecting their identity, changing their identity and relocating the witnesses.
6. The State of Punjab should install security devices in the witness’s home such as security door, CCTVs, alarms, fencing etc.
7. The Police must have emergency contact numbers of witnesses, close protection for the witnesses, regular patrolling around the witness’s house, escort to the Court and from the Court to their home with provision of Government vehicle or a State funded conveyance on the date of hearing
The bench issued direction as:
“All the investigating officers in the State of Punjab are directed to record the statement under Section 161 Cr.P.C. by audio, video, and electronic means forthwith, as per Section 161 Cr.P.C”