Bengaluru: A two-day brainstorming between senior bureaucrats and experts on making cities safer felt that a witness-victim protection programme is urgently needed to ensure perpetrators of violence against women and children are punished.
Such a programme will give greater confidence to victims and witnesses to come forward and help take the cases to their logical end, participants at the consultation, ‘Safe City is a Smart City’, organised by the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission and Hanns Seidel Foundation of Germany, on April 17 and 18, in the city. The seminar discussed strategies to improve service delivery by various institutions, dealing with women and children.
Dr P.M. Nair, chairperson, Centre for Policy Studies and Public Policy at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, said a protection programme for victims and witnesses is essential to ensure effective prosecution of guilty in cases of violence against women and children. Many countries have witness protection programmes, but US pioneered the concept way back in 1871 to protect those who testified against the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan.
Other countries that have the programme include Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, UK, Ukraine, Thailand and Taiwan. In India, the debate has begun on the need for such a programme, and an MP, Om Birla, introduced a bill in Parliament in 2015. In November 2016, the Supreme Court underlined the need for such a programme, at least in cases involving political and economic power. In the Bengaluru consultation, the concept of such was not discussed at length, but was included as one of the recommendations to the government.
Among other recommendations that came up included merging the various helplines, such as those for women, children and of police, into a single helpline, effectively available at all times to victims.Another recommendation sought to reduce quick reaction time of police to distress calls from victims of violence.
Senior bureaucrats and police officers who attended the consultation included chief secretary Subhash Khuntia, DG & IGP R.K. Dutta, DG&IGP M.N. Reddi, Additional Chief Secretary K. Ratnaprabha, Principal Secretary Uma Mahadevan, Urban Development Secretary Ponnuraj, Additional Commissioner of Police Malini Krishnamurthy, Principal Secretary, Health & Family Welfare, Shalini Rajneesh and Principal Secretary, Home, P.K. Garg....