Published: 12th January 2022
What The FAQ: What are VWDCs that Supreme Court has asked HCs to set up?
Here's what the observations and comments made by the bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant mean. What really is the Vulnerable Witness Deposition Centre?
Who are vulnerable witnesses in the eyes of the law? Well, that definition just changed. The Supreme Court on January 11 said that vulnerable witnesses will not just mean children anymore but will also include sexual assault victims, those with mental illness and people with speech or hearing impairment among others.
Here's what the observations and comments made by the bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant mean. What really is the Vulnerable Witness Deposition Centre's (VWDC) function? We break it down for you.
Who is a vulnerable witness?
The Supreme Court bench was hearing a plea on protecting vulnerable witnesses. The judges said that "vulnerable witnesses will not be limited to mean only child witnesses, but will include age-neutral victims of sexual assault, gender-neutral victims of sexual assault, age and gender-neutral victims of sexual assault under Section 377 IPC (unnatural offences), witnesses suffering from mental illness as defined in Mental Healthcare Act, witnesses with threat perception and any speech or hearing impaired individual or person suffering from any other disability who is considered to be vulnerable by the court concerned".
What will the VWDC do?
The apex court said that there is a need for special facilities to ensure that recording of evidence from vulnerable witnesses happens in a free and safe environment. They instructed the High Courts to form a Vulnerable Witness Deposition Centre (VWDC) scheme within two months.
Where will VWDCs be set up?
The HC s should set up permanent VWDC committees and even train people to manage the centres at the district level. All stakeholders including members of the bar, bench and staff will also be sensitised. Places where there are Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) centers in place, a VWDC will also be set up.