The recent daylight murder of Umesh Pal is a tragic testament to the acute need for a robust witness protection program in India, particularly in Poorvanchal. Pal was a key…

The recent daylight murder of Umesh Pal is a tragic testament to the acute need for a robust witness protection program in India, particularly in Poorvanchal. Pal was a key witness in the Raju Pal murder case, and his testimony was crucial in securing the conviction of murderers.

Organized crime has long plagued the region of Poorvanchal in Uttar Pradesh, which is known for its high levels of criminal activity. The powerful mafia groups in the area have instilled fear in the community, making it difficult for witnesses to come forward and testify against them.

Those who do speak out are often met with retribution, either in the form of violence or intimidation, which results in many witnesses being killed or forced to remain silent. As a result, some witnesses have fled their homes and moved to unknown locations, where they hope to remain safe from harm.

In some cases, individuals who assist victims lacking literacy skills in filing First Information Reports (FIR) against murderers may themselves be included in the FIR and their identities revealed publicly, exposing them to death threats.

Despite the existence of the Witness Protection Scheme, 2018, witnesses in India are not always effectively protected. Witness Protection Scheme, 2018, which was endorsed by the Supreme Court of India in its Judgment dated 05.12.2018 in Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 156 of 2016, provides a comprehensive framework for the protection of witnesses.

The Scheme includes measures such as protection/change of identity, relocation, installation of security devices at the witness's residence, and the usage of specially designed Court rooms. However, despite the existence of this Scheme, there have been instances where witnesses have not been adequately protected, and the efficacy of the Scheme remains a matter of concern.

As per Article 141/142 of the Constitution, the Witness Protection Scheme, 2018, endorsed by the Supreme Court is binding on all Courts within the territory of India and enforceable in all States and Union Territories. The need for a robust witness protection program has never been more urgent, especially in regions like Poorvanchal.

The Umesh Pal murder serves as a tragic reminder of the consequences of failing to protect witnesses, and it is imperative that the government takes immediate action to ensure that witnesses can testify without fear of reprisal.

Those who harm witnesses must be held accountable for their actions. A comprehensive legal framework should be established to support the witness protection program. The program should include measures such as providing secure housing, financial assistance, and round-the-clock security to witnesses and their families.

Furthermore, the government should invest in improving the investigation and prosecution of crimes to ensure that criminals are brought to justice.

Unfortunately, India's current witness protection program is inadequate and often fails to protect witnesses from harm. In many cases, witnesses are left to fend for themselves, and those who do come forward are often subjected to harassment and intimidation. The consequences of this situation are far-reaching and severe, with ordinary citizens left feeling powerless and vulnerable. This instills a sense of impunity among criminals and further discourages witnesses from coming forward to testify.

The presence of criminal elements in politics has eroded public trust in democratic institutions and governance, further exacerbating the region's problems. To address these issues and restore the rule of law in Poorvanchal, there is a need for a concerted effort.

Experts believe that a strong witness protection program is crucial to ensuring that witnesses can come forward without fear of reprisal.

India needs to urgently develop a strong witness protection program, particularly in regions like Poorvanchal, where organized crime and violence are rampant. Failure to do so will continue to allow criminals to walk free and discourage witnesses from coming forward to testify against them.

The governments must act swiftly to ensure that witnesses are protected and that justice is served.

Updated On 25 Feb 2023 9:15 AM GMT
Anurag Tiwari

Anurag Tiwari

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