Karnataka High Court: While disposing a particular criminal appeal the Court issued a set of guidelines realizing the need of reforms in trial system and to avoid many unexpected situations during the trial, it suggested series of measures including holding Pre-Trial Conference with all stakeholders by the trial courts and giving traveling allowance to witnesses. The Court has also asked these trial courts to explore the possibility of paying allowance to the witnesses who attend the court.
The single judge bench comprising of A.V.Chandrashekara J., observed that Pre-Trial Conference’ should be given importance as a valuable exercise, helping in holding a successful trial than being a mere procedure mandated in Section 309, CrPC.
The bench further wrote “This court feels that a ‘Pre-trial Conference’ will have to be held consisting of presiding officer, public prosecutors, accused, advocate for the accused, and the concerned responsible police officer like inspector or sub inspector of the concerned police station. It would also be very helpful if a ‘Pre-Trial Conference’ is held wherein the public prosecutor will come with thorough preparation about the list of prosecution witnesses he wishes to examine and the approximate time for examining them with particular reference to the dates. The courts must ensure that the witnesses intended to be examined by the prosecutor would be available on the specified dates they are expected to appear”
The Court further went on to direct the trial courts to ensure that the witnesses intended to be examined by the prosecutor should be available only on the specified dates they are expected to appear. If the witnesses who are called through summons or other process and stand at the doorstep from morning and then only to be told that the case was adjourned to another day, it would cause lot of injustice and inconvenience to them. They may not speak loudly about their plight, but simply undergo the agony and at times, curse the concerned. The single judge bench also added that the principal district judge or the unit head will have to write to the high court to provide sufficient amount to be paid as Traveling Allowance (TA) (batta) to the witnesses who attend the court. It further said “In fact, the amount of TA (batta) to be paid as per the provisions the Karnataka (Payment of Expenses of Complainants and Witnesses Attending Criminal Courts) Rules, 1967, need to be updated keeping in mind the present cost of living, and cost of traveling charges, etc. The criminal court must ensure that the witnesses are paid the prescribed TA and DA as per rules on the same day and the prosecution is expected to assist the court in this regard. If for any reason sufficient amount is not available in the court, the same should be sent to the concerned witness after allotment is made, at the earliest” [N.R. Bhat v. CBI, 2016 SCC OnLine Kar 1107, Decided on 21-04-2016]