NIA moves court to protect identity, statements of some accused

After filing the charge-sheet in the diplomatic channel gold smuggling case, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has moved the NIA Special Court for protecting the identity of some of the witnesses and their statements in the sensational case.

It is by invoking Section 173(6) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, that the agency moved the applications. The section states that “if the police officer is of the opinion that any part of the statement is not relevant to the subject matter of the proceedings or its disclosure to the accused is not essential to the interest of justice, and inexpedient in the public interest,” he can approach the trial court with such an application.

While moving such applications, the investigating officer shall append a note requesting the magistrate to exclude that part of the statements from the copies to be provided to the accused.

Once the court approves the prayer, those portions of the statements given by the protected witnesses and the details of such witnesses will be kept out of public domain and the access of the accused. Such measures are often taken to protect the life and to ensure the safety of the witnesses who might have made sensational depositions before the investigation agency, sources indicated.

Turned approver?

The NIA has listed a few witnesses as protected witnesses in the case in which the agency submitted charge-sheet against 20 persons, including Swapna Suresh and P.S. Sarith. Interestingly, the name of Sandeep Nair, whom the investigation agencies had earlier described as one of the key players in the gold smuggling cartel, has not been included in the list of accused. Indications are that he may have turned approver and the agency might have used his statements to nail down the other accused. The NIA may also file supplementary charge-sheet in the case shortly against those who aided the gold smuggling, sources said.

Indications are that the trial in the case will be scheduled after the Kerala High Court passing its order in the appeal filed by the NIA against the Special Court granting bail to a few accused. Appeals filed by some other accused against the denial of bail by the trial court is also pending before the High Court.

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