Comments on the Victim Protection Bill
A victim is a person directly or indirectly affected as a result of commission of a crime. He/she may be affected either financially, socially, physically or mentally.
The modern definition of victim includes person such as prisoner, immigrant and subjects of medical experimentations along with conservative definition of victim which includes person affected by crimes such as murder, rape, dacoit and violence.
The 1973 landmark judgment delivered by the Supreme Court of the United States in Linda R.S. v. Richard D reported in 410 U.S. 614 may be mentioned here. In this case, relief for maintenance was denied in absence of such provisions. However, the Court had directed the Legislature to enact a legislation protecting the rights of victims which lead to proclamation of Victim and witness Protection Act, 1982.
In Shri Bodhisattwa Gautam v. Miss Subhra Chakraborty, which has been reported in AIR 1996 SC 922 of India, the issue was again discussed. In this case, on account of prima facie evidence as an interim relief maintenance was to be provided to the prosecutrix till the final disposal of the case.
The issue of the victim protection remains one of the paramount aspects of criminal jurisprudence which has been neglected in the past. Every victim deserves protection, cooperation, access to justice, humane treatment and compensation. The present Bill tries to respond to the situation. However, its provisions are not legally enforceable and appear more to be like a Directive Principle of State Policy in the Constitution. The following shortcomings may be pointed out:
1. Section 4 of the Draft Bill states that no court shall have right to enforce the policy under the concerned Part of the Draft Bill.
2. Sections 5 to 20 enumerate rights of victims and measures to protect them. The Draft Bill further provides victim's right to information of the investigation. However, the Draft Bill is ambiguous whether such information is to be provided as a mandatory requirement or on demand, the mode of demanding such information and also whether the information is to be provided with or without any fee.
3. Section 11 of the Draft Bill lays down the policy of protecting victim, his family and his property from any form of coercion or duress but the Draft Bill fails to lay down the procedure to achieve its objectives.
4. The time period provided to appeal under Section 18 of the Draft Bill needs consideration as 15 days limitation period for appeal against the order/judgment of the adjudicating court is unconsciously less.
5. Section 22 states that an application may be preferred to the Appellate Court for enforcement of the rights enumerated under Part 3 of the Draft Bill, however, Section 23 conversely states that the Appellate Court shall not have right to review the decision delivered under the Draft Bill for any infringement of victim's right.
6. The compensation for victim provided under Part 6 needs to be reconsidered.
7. Section 48 of Part 7 of the Draft Bill identifies offences when committed, the victim of such offences is entitled to compensation but the list fails to enlist communal violence and discrimination one the offences wherein a victim is entitled to compensation.
Nobody can disagree with the logic that the compensation to the victim should be determined after carefully considering various aspects such as offence committed, injury inflicted, mental agony and trauma etc suffered by the victim. The Draft Bill is silent about the procedure for compensation when the accused is unknown or absconding and at which stage the victim is entitled to protection and compensation. Some of the rights which have been laid down have already been guaranteed in the Constitution and there is no need to be redefined in present Draft Bill.The primary object of the Draft Bill ought to have been to lay down procedure and institution/committee to implement already known rights to protect and compensate the victims.
No doubt, the present Draft Bill is a comprehensive Bill defining rights of a victim after various deliberations and is amenable to further improvement. It should however be admitted that the provisions portray the objectives it aims to achieve in near future as the State in current situation is not in a position to safeguard and compensate all victims. The procedural aspect regarding protection, compensation and rehabilitation the victim such as video-conferencing, in camera proceeding, indirect confrontation of victim with the accused are absent in the draft.