A widely appreciated central legislation to provide better relief to victims of crime appears to have remained on paper in Maharashtra.
The Centre had added on the last day of 2009 a provision section 357A to Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) mandating state governments to launch a coordinated scheme to compensate victims of crime or their families.
An RTI query revealed the state is still considering the proposal,two-and-a-half years after the amendment.
This,despite a communication by the Union home ministry to all states and union territories (UTs) on September 7,2010,asking to prepare a draft for the scheme within four weeks.
It is requested immediate steps be taken to prepare and implement a scheme for the above purpose in respect of your state/ UT. The central government may also be consulted while finalising the scheme,wherever and whenever required. The draft may please be prepared within a period of four weeks, the letter said.
The addition of section 357A is part of a group of amendments to CrPC aimed at improving the criminal justice delivery system. These include the right of a victim to appeal a court order acquitting an accused or convicting the accused of a lesser offence by an amendment to section 372 of CrPC.
Also,an amendment to section 275 provides that in warrant cases before magistrates,statements of witnesses can be video-recorded.
Before adding the scheme,the only provision for compensation to victims under CrPC was directing the convict/s to pay the amount (section 357).
The new provision is particularly relevant in cases where the convicted person is not in a financial position to pay adequate compensation. Significantly,the compensation can also be paid in cases where the offender is not traced,but the victim is identified,and where no trial takes place. This can be done through an application by the victim or his/ her dependents to the state government or the district legal services authority.
CrPC section 357A (1) states
Every state government,in coordination with the Centre,shall prepare a scheme for providing funds for compensation to a victim or his/her dependents who have suffered loss or injury as a result of a crime and who require rehabilitation.