The Supreme Court has asked the Centre and state governments about the steps being taken to ensure that witnesses in sensitive and high-profile cases are not harmed.
The bench of justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, after hearing Attorney General KK Venugopal has expanded the ambit of a public interest litigation by seeking protection for witnesses in rape cases involving Asaram Bapu.
The court’s direction came in the wake of the petitioners seeking investigation into the instances of attacks and disappearances of witnesses in cases against Asaram.
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, 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.
“Since in this petition, the Court is primarily dealing with the issue pertaining to witness protection programme, it would be appropriate to issue notice to all other States as well. The petitioners shall implead other States also as parties and notice shall be served upon them, returnable in four weeks”, the bench said.
SC also granted the last opportunity to Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, who are already party in the case, to file their replies in four weeks to a plea of four key witnesses in a rape case of minors allegedly involving Asaram Bapu, being tried in Jodhpur.