Security for victims and witnesses must be ensured

Pass the Witness Protection Bill now!

It is extremely disappointing that an important Bill drafted in 2006 has been sitting in the freezer for 12 years now. Speakers at a conference highlighted this and asked the government to make into law the Witness Protection Bill which aims to ensure the security of victims and witnesses of crimes. We reiterate this and call on the state to put special focus on guaranteeing the security of rape victims, their families and witnesses, who are especially vulnerable to being harassed and intimidated into silence.

Such harassment has been revealed to have taken place on numerous occasions through media reports, many a times, without the authorities taking any action against the harassers who, let us not forget, were at the time under investigation for committing the severest of crimes. This shameful practice is especially prevalent when the accused is connected to powerful groups or sections of society—further increasing the power imbalance between the accused and the accuser, which ultimately makes it even more difficult for justice to prevail.

Consequently, it should not be forgotten that harassing victims and witnesses in itself is a crime—witness tampering—aimed to cover up another. Given that a number of issues already discourage victims of rape in our country to make public the severe injury that was done to them, it is vital that the authorities take meaningful steps to stop them or their family members and witnesses from being harassed, intimidated and, essentially, prevented from seeking justice.

The concerned authorities should immediately pass the Bill into law and ensure that strong mechanisms are in place to uphold it.