Victims of crimes and their families can look forward to a helping hand from the government to put the agonising memories behind them and be able to start life afresh.
The Supreme Court has directed all states and Union Territories to implement without delay the scheme meant to compensate injured victims and families of those killed in crimes.
The governments are obligated to disburse compensation under Section 357A of the Code of Criminal Procedure whereby a court can issue such orders to help victims of crime rehabilitate.
A bench of Justices V Gopala Gowda and Adarsh Kumar Goel said there was a benevolent purpose behind having such a legal provision and that it could not be allowed to frustrate due to ignorance or indifference on the part of the courts or of the authorities concerned.
“It has been brought to our notice that even though almost a period of five years has expired since the enactment of Section 357A, the award of compensation has not become a rule and interim compensation, which is very important, is not being granted by the courts,” it said.
It asserted that a duty was cast upon the courts “to takes cognizance of a criminal offence, to ascertain whether there is tangible material to show commission of crime, whether the victim is identifiable and whether the victim of crime needs immediate financial relief.”
In all such cases, the court should direct the government to pay compensation, which could be as an interim measure to begin with, subject to final outcome of the case. “Gravity of offence and need of victim are some of the guiding factors to be kept in mind, apart from such other factors as may be found relevant in the facts and circumstances of an individual case,” said the bench.
The court was informed by Additional Solicitor General L N Rao that 25 out of 29 state governments had notified victim compensation schemes. The bench ordered the remaining four states, namely Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya and Telangana to notify their schemes within one month. It also ordered all the states to place additional funds at disposal of the Legal Services Authorities.
The court further regretted that the upper limit of compensation fixed by some of the states was “arbitrarily low and not in keeping with the object of the legislation”, and held there was a need to consider upward revision in the scale for compensation to meet the current cost of living index.
The bench said that till such decisions are taken by the governments, the scale notified by the Kerala government could meet the purpose. Under the Kerala Victim Compensation Scheme that was notified by the state government in February, the compensation for death due to crime is Rs 5 lakh, and that for rape victims and culpable homicide not amounting to murder is at least Rs 3 lakh. The compensation for dowry-related violence is up to Rs 2 lakh, while the amount for acid attack victims ranges from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 3 lakh. The quantum of compensation under the Kerala law is higher than any other state in the country.
The order came while ordering an interim compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the family of two businessmen who were abducted for Rs 50 lakh-ransom from Haryana’s Gurgaon in December 2000 and were later killed. The Punjab and Haryana High Court had rejected a plea to compensate the family of Devender Chopra and his son, Abhishek, both industrialists. The bench asked the High Court to decide the final amount to compensation in due proceedings. It also upheld the life term for two convicts, Suresh and Manmohan.
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