Protect Witnesses appearing against Asaram: Supreme Court

Protect Witnesses appearing against Asaram: Supreme Court

New Delhi, Mar 24: Questioning the failures of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in implementing the witness protection schemes till now, the Supreme Court today asked them to give security to the witnesses in rape cases against Asaram.

“It’s high time now, why are you not implementing the witness protection scheme. The witnesses in criminal cases need to be protected,” said a bench of justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan.

Granting Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana the last opportunity to file their replies to a plea by four key witnesses in a rape case of minors allegedly involving Asaram Bapu, being tried in Jodhpur, the bench asked them to reply within four weeks.

The court also asked Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to provide security to the witnesses in the case against Asaram residing there. While UP has three such witnesses, Haryana has one.

The counsel appearing for Rajasthan said the ongoing trial of the case at Jodhpur is almost over.

Advocate Utsav Singh Bains appearing for four witnesses in the case sought a SIT probe into the instances of attacks and disappearances of the witnesses in cases against Asaram and pleaded for expeditious framing of the national witness protection guidelines.

On November 18 last year, the apex court had asked the Centre and the states to reply to the pleas by witnesses in cases against Asaram. The witnesses had also demanded their protection.

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The four petitioners who have filed the plea are – Mahinder Chawla, a witness in a rape case allegedly involving Asaram; Naresh Gupta, the father of a murdered witness; Karamvir Singh, the father of a child rape victim and Narender Yadav, a journalist who allegedly escaped a murder attempt.

“A very dangerous scenario has emerged which attacks the heart of our constitutional rights and freedoms, where the rich and powerful accused openly subvert the rule of law and pollute the streams of justice by murdering, attacking and threatening witnesses with impunity.

“Recently several witnesses in the Asaram Bapu and Narayan Sai rape cases were killed, attacked or went missing under mysterious circumstances,” their plea said.

The petitioners also sought directions from the court to the Centre and states protection by the central forces to the witnesses who have been attacked. [PTI story]

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