Overview: Victim Compensation in India
Profile of Author: Prerna Chhabra is a 4th year BA.LLB (H) student from CPJ (CHS & SOL) (affiliated her GGSIPU). Her areas of interest are family law, constitutional law, criminal law and socio-legal issues.
All our legal statutes aim at punishing the criminals for the wrong that they have caused to the victim and the society at large. Our legislations have enormous laws formulated for convicting the criminal and awarding them with harsh penalties for all the ill-acts that they have performed, but barely do we hear about our laws talking about victims.
Due to this it started being a matter of concern and slowly it was realised victim compensation is considered a “diminishing point in our jurisprudence”.
As per resolution 40/34 adopted by United nations General Assembly, 1985 – “Victim” means
"persons who, individually or collectively, have suffered harm, including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights, through acts or omissions that are in violation of criminal laws operative within Member States, including those laws proscribing criminal abuse of power”.
In India the code of Criminal Procedure,1973[i] (hereinafter referred as Cr.PC) under section 2 (wa) defines “Victim” as a person who has suffered any loss or injury caused by reason of the act or omission for which the accused person has been charged and the expression “victim” includes his or her guardian or legal heir.”
Evolution of Victim Compensation India
The practice of victim compensation can be traced back to ancient times, where according to Manu; compensating the sufferer was considered a holy right. To pay for both their injuries or damaged goods was considered royal. On the similar footing section 357 Cr. PC is enacted and enumerates the concept of victim compensation.
Section 357 Cr. PC – order to pay compensation
This section broadly tries to cover compensation of almost every kind by the accused to the prosecution. The section states that when the court sentences the accused with any sentence, including death sentence, it shall incur fine and while passing any judgement the court may order for any fine recovered by way of: -
Expenses in prosecution, which covers the expenses properly incurred in the prosecution. Or when the court is of the view that any loss or injury has been caused to the victim, it may pass such orders on the accused to pay compensation to the prosecution.
Section 357 (c) – “when any person is convicted of any offence for having caused the death of another person or of having abetted the commission of such an offence, in paying compensation to the persons who are, under the Fatal Accidents Act, 1855 (13 of 1855 ), entitled to recover damages from the person sentenced for the loss resulting to them from such death”;
Further section 357(d) talks about compensation in case of death – “when any person is convicted of any offence which includes theft, criminal misappropriation, criminal breach of trust, or cheating, or of having dishonestly received or retained, or of having voluntarily assisted in disposing of, stolen property knowing or having reason to believe the same to be stolen, in compensating any bona fide purchaser of such property for the loss of the same if such property is restored to the possession of the person entitled thereto.”
It can be seen clearly that we have ample provisions for victim compensation, but the major concern is that most of the convicts belong to the lower strata of our society and that is why they are unable to compensate the victim. In order to curb this issue a criminal amendment was initiated in 2009[ii], which introduced section 357A, which explicitly states about scheme of victim compensation.
Schemes for victim compensation in India
- Scheme for Compensation: “Every State Government in co-ordination with the Central Government shall prepare a scheme for providing funds for the purpose of compensation to the victim or his dependents who have suffered loss or injury as a result of the crime and who require rehabilitation.”. This was introduced with the aim of bringing uniformity in the existing compensation system.
- Power to Decide Quantum of Compensation: “Whenever a recommendation is made by the Court for compensation, the District or the State Legal Service Authority, as the case may be, shall decide the quantum of compensation to be awarded under the scheme aforesaid”.
- In case of Deficient Acquittal or Discharge: where the trial court at the conclusion of the trial that the awarded compensation isn’t adequate under section 357, it may make orders for further compensation, as well.
- If a certificate is made by officer in charge of police or a magistrate to the State or District Legal Service Authorities, regarding reducing the suffering incurred by the victim be treated with free legal aid, then the same shall become operative.
- There are also specially dedicated funds for women victims, which includes both survivors and her dependants. This is granted by the State Legal Service Authorities
- A 2019 amendment[iii] in the victim compensation scheme has enlarged the radius of compensation by awarding it between 2-10 lakhs.
It is evident that our law has a dynamic nature and tries to circumscribe as many provisions as our society aspires. It obviously comes to the implementation of the existing laws as well as schemes that our legal system has to offer. The prime concern of the judiciary and the legislature is protection victim at all costs and by such humane provisions, it is half the battle won.
- What is the concept of victim compensation?
Everyone is aware about the punishments which are awarded to the accused but a few people are aware about the compensation a victim is entitled to get under law. The concept of victim compensation is not new to India, rather it has been an ancient practice. After independence, this specific concept found a place in our statute under criminal law. Through this concept the victim is entitled to reimbursement by the accused for the injuries or damages caused by him.
- Is this Practice successful?
It is an established fact, major crimes are committed in the society due to poverty, starvation, illiteracy and unemployment. That means that the people belonging to the lower part of the society are the wrongdoers majorly. Given this scenario, its difficult to say that this practice is a total success. But if we take a middle road, then it can be established that this practice is both a hit and a fail.
[i] Act. No 2 of 1974
[ii] Act. No 5 of 2009
[iii] National Legal Services Authority, notification vide: 20 May 2019, : http://cgslsa.gov.in/SCHEME/VCS_2019_(EXCESS)__NEW_AMENDED_NOTIFICATION_(STATE_AXCESS).pdf
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