Witness Protection: A Crying Need for a Law

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In the Holy Book of Al-Quran, it has been narrated in the Chapter:23 Verse:14 by the Almighty, “Then we made the life-germ a clot, then we made the clot a lump of flesh, then we made (in) the lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, then We caused it to grow into another creation, so blessed be Allah, the best of the creators.”  By this Verse, man has been defined as the most important and precious.

Great philosopher and polymath of ancient Greek Aristotle quoted, “At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst”.

In the legal field human being plays an important role to ensure justice. As a sound mind and major (who attains 18 years) is capable of being a witness and can sue and be sued.

There are huge knots of cases in our Courts. Most of the cases are still pending because of the lack of attendance of witnesses. People make themselves refrain from giving witnesses to the court as there is no protection for them in the law. If anyone of the witnesses is threatened or tempered or retaliated, he/she has to file a fresh complaint as no still provision punishes the accused in the existing trial. So, filing a fresh complaint seems to hassle and time lengthy for them. That’s why most of the persons keep them away from giving witnesses.

In India, there are huge cases of hit-and-run incidents. But there no witness is found as people do not want to engage them in a hassle. They feel unsecured if they are told to give witness. So, most of the cases remain unsolved.

In Bangladesh, the scenario is also the same. In the Daily Desh Rupantor, a Bangladeshi daily newspaper on 5th February 2022 news has been published stating the importance of promulgating the Witness protection act with some incidents. Some of them are as follows:

Ms. Laila Begum was a witness in a murder case and gave the witness before the learned court. Later Ms. Laila Begum was roughly injured by the accused and died by when the accused got released from jail. The accused was also arrested for this murder case.

Mr. Pir Ali was a witness in a case. He was threatened by the accused not to attend before the court. As a result, he filed a General Diary (GD) in the local police station. Later he was found dead. This is the result of giving the witness before the court, relatives of the victim claimed.

If we look around the developed country, we can realize that for ensuring complete justice they are giving complete protection to the witness of cases. As there are four main parts of a case, viz Judge, Complainant, Accused, and witnesses. Without the cooperation of said persons, a clear and complete justice cannot be ensured at all. In this regard, developed countries are taking notable measures to protect the rights and lives of the witnesses along with victims and informants.

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In the United States of America (USA) tempering witnesses along with the victim or an informant is regarded as a crime. The Justice manual stated that “Witness tampering is a crime even though it is not pending case and even if the witnesses are sought to be tempered, delayed or prevented that would not be admissible in evidence”.

Even if the attempt is unsuccessful to temper the witnesses, that will be the crime. Because the offense covers not only the intimidation of the testimony but also the intimidation of another person.

In this regard section, 1512 was created to ensure the protection of the witnesses and victim and it was named “Victim and witness Protection Act of 1982(VWPA).” Under this section Tempering with a witness, victim, or an informant has been introduced. If anyone tampers or attempts to do so shall be fined not more than $250,000 or imprisonment not more than 1(one) year or both.

Under section 1513 of VWPA 1982 Retaliating against a witness, victim, and informant has been introduced. If anyone retaliates or attempts to do so shall be fined not more than $250,000 or imprisonment not more than 10(ten) years or both.

In England and Wales, retaliating against witnesses is also regarded as one kind of crime preventing the process of justice. However, retaliating against the witness as a crime includes under section 51 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. To ensure protection against the retaliating of the witness the Serious Organized Crime and Police Act, 2005 has been introduced.

In International Criminal Court (ICC) in the year of 2006, a politician from the Democratic Republic of the Congo named Jean-Pierre Bemba was sentenced for tempering the witness.

We may adopt a new law like others where, any witness, victim, or informant is threatened they file a petition in the existing trial and do not need to file a fresh complaint. After getting the petition the learned trial judge may call for an investigation to find out the authenticity of this allegation and if finds so, the learned trial judge may convict the accused(s) in the existing trial.

By prosecuting in the same trial, the number of cases will be reduced and the multiplicity of cases also be curtailed.

In other countries, there should be a law relating the law for the protection of the witness along with the victim and informant to make a smooth trial to establish complete justice. Filing a new case is very hassle and there are some rules and regulations which are to be followed that are very time lengthy. Justice should be given as early as possible to the seeker(s). As there is a prominent quote by William Gladstone, “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

The author is Kamruzzaman Polash, Student, Department Of Law, East-West University, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Views are of the author.

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