"Unless the witnesses are protected the rise in unmerited acquittals cannot be checked. It is unfortunate that this important issue has not received necessary attention," a bench of justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and Madan B Lokur said. (Agencies)
The court said that the issue of witnesses’ protection is a serious matter which has not been addressed as yet.
It made the observation while delivering a verdict in a dowry death case in which the parents of the victim had turned hostile and on the basis of which the trial court acquitted the husband.
"It is sad that even parents did not stand by their daughter. We do not understand how a woman, particularly a mother, turned her back on the daughter. Possibly these witnesses were bought over by the appellant," the bench said while upholding the Karnataka High Court's verdict convicting the man in the case.
The bench said that there is a need to ascertain why witnesses are "frequently" turning hostile.
"Such conduct displays greed and lack of compassion. If they were threatened by the appellant and were forced to depose in his favour it is a sad reflection on our system which leaves witnesses unprotected. The reasons why witnesses so frequently turn hostile need to be ascertained. There is no witness protection plan in place," it said. In this case, soon after her marriage in 1987, the victim was harassed both physically and mentally by her husband for bringing dowry from her parents.
On October 17, 1991, the husband poured kerosene on her and set her on fire. She died in a hospital out of burn injuries and in her dying declaration accused her husband for the incident.
The trial court acquitted the accused after the victim's parents turned hostile in court by saying that their daughter caught fire while cooking on a stove. But the verdict was overturned by the high court which sentenced him to six years jail term.
The convict then moved the Supreme Court against the verdict but his appeal was dismissed.
"Unless the witnesses are protected the rise in unmerited acquittals cannot be checked. It is unfortunate that this important issue has not received necessary attention," a bench of justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and Madan B Lokur said.