Nupur Mathur explains the victim compensation scheme, as operative.
Victim’s compensation has always been the weeping vagrant at the gate of criminal justice system. Victimology is science of examining the relationship between the offenders and victim.
Since its inception, Criminal Justice system has been exposed to regular inspection and analysis over a period of time. The initial focus of criminologists were only on the aspect of punishment but the focus started shifting when they encountered with the fact that the person who will be victim of criminal offense achieve nothing out of the whole procedure through the technique of criminal arrest justice system or is getting a so called satisfaction by seeing the offender punished. Criminologist, penologist and jurist started considering the notion that to indemnify the agony and suffering of victims, a Victim Compensation Scheme must be initiated in the judicial undertakings. Complete attention and engrossment should be incorporated to safeguard the needs and wants of victims.
The theory of Victim Compensation was first perceived in Criminal Procedure Code of 1898. But due to few loopholes in the legislation i.e. only “Fine” as a mode of compensation was imposed on the criminal, the legislation was ruled out. Other exclusive legislations established for the victim compensation were – Criminal Procedure Code 1973 and Probations of Offenders Act.
The whole legal framework engaged in victim compensation can be compiled into two major points –
Firstly, sometimes out of Judicial imposition compensation is provided from State or even ex- gratia from the Constitution of India.
Secondly, offender is obliged to provide compensation either as a part of fine or allotment of specific amount under Cr.P.C or Constitution of India.
Before 2009, there was no well-defined statutory system which will provide support to victims. A Victim compensation scheme which was established into Section 357A of the CrPc in 2009. This Section provides discretion to the judges in rewarding compensation to victims which initiates the coarse idea for the compensation for a crime. The compensation power was completely in the hands of judges depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case, whether they should provide the specific sum to the victims or not with reference to the interest of justice.
In order to support and complement existing victim compensation schemes of states and UTs, a new approach has emerged known as Central Victim Compensation Scheme which brings equality among the States by curtailing the disparity between the quanta of compensation amount notified by different states and UTs. In October 2015, India’s Home Ministry has established a Central Victim Compensation Fund (CVCF) with an original amount of Rs. 200 crore. This one – time grant of Rs. 200 crore funds has been raised from Nirbhaya Fund (an organization which works to protect women against sexual offences like rape, women trafficking etc.). The main aim of this fund is to financially support the victims of various crimes viz. rape, acid attacks, human trafficking and women killed or injured in the cross border firing. Other than this, it will also to strengthen the states and union territory administrations to adequately implement the Victim Compensation Scheme (VCS) announced by them under the provisions of Section 357A of CrPC. The new scheme came to existence from 21st August 2016.
The Supreme Court observed that having regard to the Directive principles contained in the Article 38(1) of the Constitution, it was necessary to set up criminal Injuries compensation Board for victims, besides the mental anguish, frequently incur substantial financial loss and in some cases are too traumatized to continue in employment.
States might be more interested in implementing the victim compensation scheme, now that the Union government will reimburse the compensation amount. This is expected to encourage States and also to harmonize differences in the quantum of compensation.
Significantly, the degree of crime certainly differs from one case to another. The fixed compensation for the type of crime shall not seem worthy for all the cases which claim compensation. Compensation programs tend to equally encourage & discourage the participation of victims in reporting crime, assisting with investigations, and participating in prosecution. The Judges will experience lower discretionary levels in passing the verdicts of the cases. Since victims are mostly from poor and poverty stricken background, the judiciary must provide them with financial and economic benefits for their welfare and assist them with urgent financial aids. Various victims suffer from distress, anguish and mental trauma due to circumstances of the case, the judiciary should focus on to accommodate the victims with hospitalization and medical expenses along with the compensation amount.
Due to lack of vision and administrative difficulties, compensation programs experience ineffectiveness in accomplishing its aims and objectives. When discussing whether compensation programs will function actively within a judicial framework, one should remember the following declaration: “An engagement to compensation involves a responsibility to making it beneficial.”