Observing that the problem of witnesses turning hostile was a malaise that has been affecting the criminal justice system for long, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court directed the State government to come up with a definite action plan within three months to record the statements through audio-video electronic means.
“In cases involving heinous offences punishable with imprisonment of 10 years and above, and also offences against women and children, evidence that is recorded in the court must be recorded through audio-video electronic means. Such recorded version can form part of the court records,” it said.
The government should immediately take steps to provide audio-video recording facilities at courts where it is not available at present, and also facilitate the storage and safekeeping of the electronic data, the bench said. The authorities were asked to provide the status on all these fronts during the next date of hearing (April 01, 2020).
The bench also sought a report on the implementation of the witness protection scheme as directed by the Supreme Court, pointing out that the electronic means cannot be effectively brought into force as it may expose the witnesses to a larger threat. The bench set aside the contention that the recording the evidence of witness through electronic means was provided under Section 275 of CrPC only in warrant cases and that the provision was not found for trial in cases before Sessions Court.
“It will defy logic… Such an interpretation will lead to illogical and absurd consequences,” the bench said.