Date: Friday, June 29, 2018
Location: Kolkata, West Bengal, India
A clause in a state law that allowed victims of violent crimes to be compensated by the state only if the accused was unidentified, untraceable and the trial had not yet started, has been struck down by the Calcutta High Court.
The West Bengal Victim Compensation Scheme 2017, formulated after the Centre amended the CrPC, compensates victims for heinous offences like acid attacks, rapes, murders, and even for causing the loss of a foetus or fertility.
The court, in its order on June 25, observed that the purpose of the scheme was to give the victim of a serious crime — especially if it’s a woman — urgent and immediate attention and physical and mental rehabilitation. And that rehabilitation, the court maintained, could not be dependent on the pace of either the investigation or the trial. The HC also pointed out an inherent fallacy in the eligibility clause: “If the accused have not been identified a trial cannot commence anyway.”
The court’s order came after a trafficking victim was rescued from Pune. CID arrested two of the four accused traffickers, with two more absconding. The victim applied for compensation under the state scheme, but her petition was turned down once. When she appealed against it to the State Legal Services Authority, the nodal body of implementing this scheme, it was turned down again. The victim them moved court.
‘Compensation a fundamental right’
Justice Rajasekhar Mantha, in his eight-page order, clearly said that compensation is awarded as the fundamental rights of the victim under Article 21, and this had been violated. “Denial of compensation to such victim would continue such violation and perpetrate gross inhumanity on the victim in question,” he said in his order. The HC held this could not be the object of the scheme. “I therefore hold that both the requirements — the accused not being identified or traced, and that the trial should not have commenced — need not be satisfied for entitlement of compensation under the 2017 scheme,” he said in the order.
The HC directed the State Legal Services Authority to assess the compensation payable to the petitioner and give it to her within 10 days, said advocate Kallol Mondal, representing the authority. The court left it to the authority to decide whether the compensation would be paid at one go or instalments. It also asked the CID to expedite the probe to track down the remaining accused and proceed with the trial even in their absence.
In 2009, the Centre had amended the CrPC and introduced 357A, which elaborated on a victim-compensation scheme. The law says every state, along with the Centre, shall prepare this scheme. The Bengal government, on February 17, 2017 published the scheme in its official gazette, laying out the compensation amounts in 11 heinous criminal offences. Acid attack and rape victims are compensated Rs 3 lakh, the highest under the scheme. Minors are entitled to more compensation.
Read The Times of India (Source) article here.