Judges can''t act as tape recorders, but protect witnesses:SC

New Delhi, Jan 12 (PTI) Observing that judges cannot act"like mere tape recorders"and government has a duty to protectwitnesses, the Supreme Court today transferred the murdertrial of an engineer, allegedly shot dead by a contractors''mafia, from Uttarakhand to a Delhi court.

A bench of justices J M Panchal and H L Gokhale passedthe order on a petition filed by Vikas Kumar Roorkewal, son ofthe deceased Radhey Shyam, a Superintendent Engineer withUttarakhand Irrigation Department, who sought the transfer onthe ground that the family and witnesses were facing constantthreats and intimidation from the accused.

Shyam, who was dealing with Rs 240-crore Upper GangaLink Canal Project, was shot dead in broad daylight on June18, 2006, at his camp office in Roorkee in front Roorkewal andother witnesses.

The case was pending trial in a Fast Track court,Haridwar, since 2006. The deceased''s son alleged a number ofother engineers too were earlier murdered by the mafia who hadlet loose a reign of terror.

It was stated that the witnesses and the familymembers of Shyam were facing constant threats and even thedriver of the deceased, who was a key prosecution witness, hadturned hostile during the trial. According to the deceased''sson, though they have made several representations to theauthorities and the trial court concerned, no action was takento protect the witnesses.

Accepting the plea, Justice Panchal, writing thejudgement, said "the necessity of a fair trial hardly needsemphasis. The state has a definite role to play in protectingthe witnesses, to start with at least in sensitive cases.

"The learned judge has failed to take participatoryrole in the trial. He was not expected to act like a mere taperecorder to record whatever had been stated by the witnesses,"the bench said.

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