In an incident that once again exposes the vulnerability of witnesses in criminal cases, a 20-year-old man was shot dead by unknown assailants in north-west Delhi’s Jahangirpuri area on Sunday night. Deceased Jeet Kumar was an eyewitness to his friend’s murder. He was also the complainant in the case. Two persons have been detained in this regard.
According to the police, Jeet’s friend Vijay was thrashed to death by six men in July this year. Jeet was with Vijay at the time of the incident. Four people were arrested after the murder. The remaining two had absconded and the process of declaring them Proclaimed Offenders (PO) was on.
On Sunday night, Jeet and his brother were walking near the JJ cluster where they lived when five men attacked them. According to the police, the attackers might be associated to the absconding accused of the previous murder case.
Jeet’s brother somehow broke free, ran for help, and returned only to find him lying in a pool of blood. “The accused hit him, and then fired three rounds at his arm, back and abdomen, before fleeing from the spot,” a police officer said. He added that the victim had never complained about anyone threatening him or had not asked for police protection.
Jeet’s family members, however, said they did not demand security despite threats. DCP (north-west) Milind Dumbre said: “A case of murder has been registered at the Jahangirpuri police station. Several teams have been formed to nab the accused, and further investigation is underway.”
Over the last few years, the debate around the need for a witness protection programme has gathered momentum. Recently, the Supreme Court had expressed concern regarding the rising number of witnesses turning hostile, observing that it shook public confidence in the criminal justice system.
“The risk factor for witnesses remains, especially in cases of heinous crimes. They are either bullied, persuaded or threatened to not depose before the court. There is a witness protection programme in the country, but it is not robust,” said former Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar.
He added that witnesses are given protection if they demand it or if they fear any sort of threat. The police can also provide protection suo-moto, if they feel the witness is under threat, he said.