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The victim impact report v/s criminal justice system

The Victim Compensation Scheme, an essential element of the criminal justice system in India, serves as a symbol of justice for individuals who have endured harm as a result of criminal acts. The program, enshrined in the law, is designed to offer comfort and assistance to victims, reflecting the nation’s dedication to safeguarding the rights […]

The Victim Compensation Scheme, an essential element of the criminal justice system in India, serves as a symbol of justice for individuals who have endured harm as a result of criminal acts.

The program, enshrined in the law, is designed to offer comfort and assistance to victims, reflecting the nation’s dedication to safeguarding the rights and honor of individuals impacted by criminal offenses.

The origin of this event brought about a notable change in legal frameworks, acknowledging the significance of not only addressing the individuals responsible for the crime, but also the difficulties faced by those who are left dealing with the consequences. The plan highlights a vital principle of justice – that individuals who have experienced injustice not only deserve compensation, but also acknowledgment of their pain and assistance in rebuilding their lives.

Procedure to claim compensation

Under various state schemes for Victim Compensation, the decisions regarding the amount of compensation are made by review committees in most of the states. These committees, chaired by a District or Session Court Judge, convene for a minimum of 15 days. They consist of more than 10 individuals, including representatives from the police, prosecution, collectorate, and social activists. After thorough discussions, the committees determine the appropriate amount of compensation. However, it is important to note that the economic condition of the victim and the status of dependents of the victims are not taken into consideration due to the unavailability of victim survey data.

Karan V. State of NCT of Delhi

The Delhi High Court has considered various crucial factors in addressing the plight of victims in the case of Karan V. State NCT of Delhi dated on 27th June 2023. A considerable number of cases in Delhi have received compensation under the Delhi Victim Compensation Scheme, 2011. However, a major issue identified was the lack of a clear method for determining the compensation amount. To address this, the Delhi High Court introduced the Victim Impact Report while delivering this judgment. This report serves as a basis for accurately determining the compensation amount to be awarded to victims. The process is straightforward when the victim is alive and able to provide a statement detailing the nature of their injuries. Challenges arise in cases of murder, where the victim is deceased, and the compensation is limited to a maximum of Rupees 10 Lakh only. The question arises whether this compensation amount is sufficient for a family that was dependent on the victim. Dependents of the victims, especially those from marginalized communities, face significant hardships. The Victim Impact Report plays a crucial role in providing both monetary and social benefits to such victims. For instance, in the case of a widowed woman with four daughters, the maximum compensation amount of 10 lakh may prove to be inadequate for their needs. It is essential to shed light on these issues and address them effectively. Observing these cases, it is evident that victims are left seeking justice from the criminal justice system. This appears to be a form of secondary victimization by the state towards the victims and their dependents.

In certain cases, conducting a Victim Impact Report may not yield any benefits. Many individuals in society are grappling with similar challenges, and the state must provide viable solutions. The intervention of the DLSA is imperative in addressing these issues promptly. Furthermore, the Judiciary has demonstrated a social burden shift in the conviction of the accused. The Delhi High Court, in the case of Karan V. NCT of Delhi, has provided an additional provision where the convicted individual may be held responsible for providing a portion of the restitution. However, this provision may contradict the policy of the Delhi Victim Compensation Scheme, which states that victims shall not receive any benefits from other government schemes. Considering these observations, it is necessary to establish executive guidelines from either the SLSA or DLSA to address these issues. These administrative and technological gaps can be addressed by issuing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) or effective guidelines to the relevant stakeholders.

Role of Delhi State Legal Services Authority

It is worth mentioning the commendable initiative taken by the Delhi High Court in developing a method for calculating victim compensation. The introduction of victim impact reports is a significant step forward. Other states should also consider adopting this practice and refer to similar cases when determining compensation for crime victims. As directed by the court, the responsibility to prepare victim impact report falls on the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DLSA) as stated in the Karan V. NCT of Delhi Case. This is a crucial step as it allows for parallel investigations by the court, specifically focusing on the sufferings of the victims. This ensures the collection of real-time data on the victims’ experiences. However, it has been observed that there is a technological gap in some cases, where the report is prepared by the investigating officer or the police. This may lead to manipulation of the actual data regarding the victimization of the crime. To address this issue, the data for the victim impact report should be collected by para-legal volunteers, with the inclusion of a female member or a social welfare officer. The report should be prepared under the guidance of DSLSA officials. It may be beneficial to introduce a separate framework within the DSLSA to handle victim impact reports effectively.

To summarize, the recent ruling discussed in this article emphasizes the judiciary’s proactive stance in acknowledging and protecting the rights of victims in the criminal justice system. This significant decision serves as evidence of the changing legal environment, highlighting the importance of giving priority to the well-being of victims in addition to imposing penalties on perpetrators. Although the judiciary’s dedication is praiseworthy, there are still significant areas that need reform. It is necessary to resolve disparities in compensation between states in order to guarantee fair and equal access to justice for all victims, regardless of where they are located.

Furthermore, it is necessary to reassess and enhance the function of the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DLSA) in order to improve the preparation of the Victim Impact Report, thereby ensuring a more thorough comprehension of the victim’s suffering.

These vital adjustments are necessary to improve the efficiency and inclusiveness of the victim compensation scheme, eventually confirming our dedication to justice and empathy for individuals impacted by crime.

Hitesh Goyal is Assistant Professor of Police Administration, Rashtriya Raksha University, Gandhi Nagar, Gujarat.

Dr. Alisha Verma is Assistant Professor of Law, Symbiosis Law School, Pune, Maharashtra.

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criminal justice systemOpinionTDGThe Daily Guardian