The role of the Judiciary is considered an essential and important segment while protecting the rights of the victims. There is an exponential rise in the importance given to victimology in India and therefore the concept has further evolved with time. The change has been brought in the Indian Judicial system through the Courts addressing the various issues faced by the victims and coming up with judgements and decisions which favour the victims in the best possible manner for the trauma they have experienced is unmeasurable. Therefore, the change in the delivery of decisions by the Superior Courts in India is looked upon so as to bring a change in the protection of victims’ rights in India. In the late 1980s, the Supreme Court of India brought into the limelight the need for compensation as a special right to the victims of crime for the sufferance that they go through either due to the offence or because of the judicial administrative process the victims have to deal with.
The Indian Legal Framework defines the term ‘Victim’. In the case Ram Phal v. State and Ors, the statutory provision is given in Section 2 (wa) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 as a Victim is “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.”
The Constitutional remedies under Article 32 and Article 226 and 227 of the Indian Constitution have given new hopes and act as a necessary initiative taken by the Indian Judiciary in protecting the victims and their rights.
In the case of Rudra Shah v. State of Bihar, a person was wrongfully imprisoned for 14 years. The petitioner also claimed compensation for his wrongful detention. For the first time, the Supreme Court of India concluded that Article 32 of the Indian Constitution allows it to grant compensation for violations of basic rights. "Article 21, which guarantees the right to life and liberty, will be devoid of its significant significance if this court's competence is confined to issuing orders of release from wrongful detention," the Court observed. One of the telling methods to adequately prevent the breach of that right and ensure due compliance with Article 21's duty is to mulct its violation in the payment of monetary compensation."
The Supreme Court awarded the payment of Rs. 10 lakhs in compensation to a Bangladeshi national who was repeatedly raped by Railway staff in Chairman, Railway Board v. Chandrima Das. The Court supported the finding of the Calcutta High Court that she was entitled to the fundamental right to life in India even as a foreign national, and that there was a constitutional need to compensate her.
The actions taken by the Judiciary in affirming the protection of victims of crime are as follows:
· Despite the absence of any separate statute in India to provide justice to victims, the Supreme Court has taken a proactive approach and taken decisive measures to defend the rights of victims of crime and power abuse. Beginning in the 1980s, the court adopted the notion of restorative justice and granted victims compensation or restitution, or increased the amount of compensation.
· Guidelines for Victim Assistance for Rape Victims: The Supreme Court concluded in Bodhisattwa Gautam v. Subhra Chakraborly16 that if a court trying a rape case has jurisdiction to award compensation at the end of the case, the court also has the authority to give interim compensation. After determining the accused's prima facie guilt, the court ordered him to pay a monthly sum of Rs.1000 to the victim as interim compensation, as well as compensation arrears dating back to the date of the complaint. It's a historic case in which the Supreme Court published a set of recommendations to assist indigenous rape victims who can't afford legal, medical, or psychological help according to the Principles of UN Declaration of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, 1955.
· State Compensation for Victims of Governmental Abuse of Power: The Supreme Court acknowledged the need for state compensation in cases of state machinery abuse of power as early as 1983. The Supreme Court concluded in D. K. Basu v. State of West Bengal that state compensation is required in cases of abuse of power, saying, "To repair the wrong done and grant judicial relief for legal loss is a compulsion of judicial conscience." Similarly, in Mrs Nalini Bhanot v. Commissioner of Police, Delhi Police18, the Court awarded a sum of Rs.75,000 in state compensation to the victim's mother, concluding that the victim died as a result of police brutality.
There have also been important improvements in the shape of new legislation promoting the cause of victims and mitigating the sufferings of potential victims, such as women, children, and the elderly. The current legislation passed by Parliament has a big impact on avoiding victimisation and providing relief to victims.
This article is written by Anuprita Mohanty of Symbiosis Law School Pune.