The purpose of this protocol is to present guidelines and mandatory recommendations, to improve the response of the justice dispensation system to vulnerable witnesses. This protocol prescribes guidelines while recording depositions of vulnerable witnesses in order to enable them to give their best evidence in criminal proceedings.
Each witness is unique and is to be handled accordingly. Some of the most challenging cases handled by judges during the course of their careers are those involving vulnerable witnesses as, what happened to or was witnessed by them, impact significantly on their quality of deposition and potentially outcome of a trial. Vulnerable witnesses, find the criminal justice system intimidating, particularly the courtroom experience. Under these circumstances, a vulnerable witness may be a poor witness, providing weak testimony and contributing less information than should have been elicited.
Further, the lengthy process of navigating the formal and adversarial criminal justice system can affect the vulnerable witnesses psychological development and disable this sensitivity in significant and long-lasting ways.
To respond effectively to the needs of vulnerable witnesses the criminal justice system needs to respond proactively with sensitivity in an enabling and age appropriate manner, so that the trial process is less traumatic for them. Judges have to strike a balance between protecting the accused‘s right to a fair trial, and ensuring that witnesses who give evidence in the case are enabled to do so to the best of their ability.
Issued By the Delhi High Court