Written By: Khushi Gupta
Victims of crime: Restoration and Legal care under Indian Criminal Jurisprudence
Have you ever been in a major fight with your friend or family and felt as if you have been wronged? If yes, you must have found yourself not being able to fully recover from the wrong that has happened to you for at least a couple of days. If a simple fight can affect your mind in such a way, can you imagine the amount of psychological discomfort a person must feel who has been a victim of a major crime?
Crimes are not decreasing and that’s the harsh truth especially for women, where crimes against them have actually noted an increase of 63% in just the first six months of 2021. While there was an overall increase in the heinous crime of 8.5%. These heinous crimes involve innocent people who see things they can’t unsee and feel things they can’t forget. The effect on their mental health cannot be calculated but that does not mean that it can be ignored either.
How is legal care provided under indian Jurisdiction
The position of victims of crime in India is of a mere witness for the prosecution. They do not have a separate set of rights protecting them from any further dangers or for their restoration of mental and physical health. This comes more as a shock since the Indian Penal Code and the Constitution of India both provide an extensive set of rights to the accused.
The importance of victim rights however has not been ignored by several committees and experts. On a further brighter note, the apex court of India has devoted a good amount of judgments for the protection of victims. Also, the study of victims, called victimology, has been an active subject in the Indian Jurisdiction. In this regard, the Indian Society of Victimology was also established in 1992 in Madras.
The standard of legal care for victims ideally begins from their interaction with the police officers. However, police behavior towards victims has not been looked at in a positive light by many legal scholars, they have constantly requested lesser interaction and share of trust between them, this lack of trust is quite evident in the Indian Evidence Act, section 25 that does not count confession made to a police officer as valid evidence.
Even though the larger legislations fail to address the issue, the separate legislation passed by the Parliament has launched targeted protection for communities of victims. The Parliament, to this effect, has passed the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 for the Prevention of Caste-Based Victimization and Protection for Victims. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 has been a successful step in the direction to protect domestic violence victims post their struggle of almost 16 years. Then there is The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 which focuses mainly on old age victims of abuse and abandonment. Lastly, there is the most important Prevention of Child Abuse and Victim Protection which protects young people who have been victimized from an early age.
Judicial Trends in restoration of victims
The Supreme Court of India has been very active in an affirmative sense to not only protect but also restitute the victims. The most important case that marks a revolution in victim restitution is Sukhdev Singh vs. the State of Punjab, the supreme court has as need be performed restorative justice, awarded compensations, and even increased the designated amount of compensation to do complete justice.
The case of Bodhisattwa Gautam vs. Subhra Chakraborty for the first time witnessed the Supreme Court rewarding interim compensation apart from the overall compensation to the rape victim. This was in fact a landmark case for rape victims, where the SC used International and Indian standards to set guidelines in regards to the treatment of a victim, one of them is to maintain the anonymity of rape victims.
The cases of Mrs. Nalini Bhanot vs. Commissioner of Police, Delhi Police, and Rudul Sah vs. the State of Bihar are known for the SC’s decision to enhance the amount of compensation to do complete justice and to some level compensate also for the mental health disruption done to the victims.
International Idea of treatment of victims
The Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power brought in force by the UN General Assembly in the year 1985, is widely considered the ‘Magna Carta for victims. The first treatment that a victim receives in the system is with the police officers and this is where the Criminal Justice System focuses most on. Internationally, the criminal justice system standards require the police to treat victims with “compassion and respect for their dignity” such a provision, however, is completely invisible in Indian Laws. Alas, in India the treatment by police of victims fails to meet the standard set in the JCS’s handbook of ‘Justice for Victims’. The UN’s standard is a layered guideline for handling victims and their overall restoration and well-being and goes for all its member nations.
One country that has made significant strides in the area of victim treatment and protection is the United Kingdom. In as early as 1995, the UK had enacted their Criminal Injuries Compensation Act, which delved deep into the rights of victims ensuring a basic standard that had to be met.
The UK is also very active in its research and continues to develop better provisions for victims and balance their system of justice. However, the victims of even the UK are not completely satisfied or feel safe with the existing provisions. Thus, the road to protect victims is a long way from home even internationally.
There are some people constantly pushing for the need for a national law for the victims focusing on their rights, treatments, and restoration, it may be a long way coming but it certainly is a possibility. Also, apart from the official organs of the country, the NGOs significantly contributed to fighting for the justice of victims, they voice their opinions and bring to the attention of the general public the need for victim protection, they have done significant work for women victims too.
The main challenge for victim protection will be the implementation of rules that may come. This implementation has to have seeped down below to the layers of police administration that are directly and initially in contact with the victims. It may seem tough but it is definitely not impossible.
Criminal Jurisprudence, Victims of crime, Crime, Victims