A full Bench of The Hon’ble Supreme of India in case of Hari v State of UP, 2021 observed that the Right of Witnesses to testify in courts in a free & fair manner is under a grave Threat today. It is a clear Violation of Articles 19(1)(a) – freedom of Speech & Expression & 21. “Right to testify in Courts in a free and fair manner without any pressure and threat whatsoever is under serious attack today. If one is unable to testify in Courts due to threats or other pressures, then it is a clear violation of Article 19 (1) (a) and Article 21 of the Constitution. Right to life guaranteed to the people of this country also includes in its fold the right to live in a society which is free from crime and fear and the right of witnesses to testify in Courts without fear or pressure.”
The case concerned Honour Killing. In this case, the evidence of one of the eye witnesses was initially recorded in which she narrated the sequence of events and the involvement of the accused in the crime. Thereafter, due to an interim order passed by the High Court, the trial was stayed for a period of six years. When she was recalled to depose in Trial Court wherein she turned hostile. She came from Low strata of society and lived in the village wherein the Accused’s caste was a dominant class.
The Hon’ble Court also observed :
“The State has a definite role to play in protecting the witnesses in sensitive cases involving those in power….. to avert trial getting tainted and derailed and truth becoming a casualty. As a protector of its citizens, it has to ensure that during a trial in the court the witness could safely depose the truth without any fear of being haunted by those against whom the witness had deposed. Every State has a constitutional obligation and duty to protect the life and liberty of its citizens. That is the fundamental requirement for observance of the rule of law. There cannot be any deviation from this requirement because of any extraneous factors like caste, creed, religion, political belief or ideology ”
The Hon’ble Court noted that Union & State Governments must enforce Witness Protection Scheme 2018 to prevent the Witness from turning Hostile or getting abused.