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SHOs now responsible for witness’ security in Haryana

By Ravinder Saini, IANS,

Rohtak : Witnesses in Haryana can now feel more secure. Following a spurt in cases of key witnesses being attacked or murdered by criminal gangs while going to court to depose, Haryana Police have decided to fix the responsibility of security of a witness on the Station House Officer (SHO) of the area where the person lives.

Taking a serious view of rising incidents of deadly assault on witnesses in heinous crime cases, they have fixed the accountability of SHOs of the police stations concerned for special security and safety of the witnesses.

“SHOs of those police stations will now be charged with dereliction of duty if any incident of assault on witnesses takes place in areas under their jurisdiction. They have also been directed to carry out a regular review regarding security arrangements for witnesses of those criminal cases which are the outcome of personal enmity or gang wars,” Alok Mittal, Inspector General of Police (IGP) of Rohtak range covering Rohtak, Jhajjar, Sonipat and Panipat districts, told IANS here.

District police chiefs have been directed to appoint any gazetted officer of their area concerned as nodal officer to ensure safety and security of witnesses especially during the deposition process.

“The Haryana Police have also decided to make sufficient number of security personnel available for those witnesses who receive threats from criminal or opposite group for deposing before courts,” Mittal said.

“All SHOs have also been directed a keep a close tab on activities of those accused of heinous crimes, who are out from prison either on bail or parole,” he added.

Police have also issued directives to the district police chiefs about the security of hardcore criminals while ferrying them for court appearance.

This follows recent incidents in Jhajjar and other districts where criminals and undertrials were attacked by rival gangs or tried to escape from custody.

In an incident March 10 in Jhajjar district, three prisoners were killed in an ambush on a police van by a rival gang while they were returning from a court appearance.

Earlier, four witnesses, including the son of a former village headman (sarpanch), were gunned down by a rival group in Dulhera village of Jhajjar district when they were returning after deposing before a court in a criminal case. Jhajjar is around 300 km from state capital Chandigarh.

In another incident in Panipat April 27, three witnesses and a securityman were assaulted by members of a rival group when they were going to court to depose in a murder case. Two of them died on the spot while the others sustained serious injuries.

Just hours later, Sardara Singh of Bhadar village in Panipat district, who owned a property business, was found dead on a road. He was to appear in a local court two days later in a property dispute case.

A woman witness, Manjeet, was shot at and injured at Assandh in Karnal district last month when she was returning after appearing as a witness in a land dispute case. Manjeet was provided security but she had asked the cop to go after her appearance in the court. She was attacked when she was alone.

(Ravinder Saini can be contacted at [email protected])