Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya of the Calcutta High Court quashed an order of the West Bengal State Legal Services Authority (SLSA) that directed two victims of human trafficking to deposit 75 per cent of the compensation granted to them in a monthly income scheme for 10 years.
The two victims had moved the high court challenging a direction of SLSA member secretary that asked them to deposit 75 per cent of the awarded amount with a nationalised bank in a monthly income scheme for 10 years. While one woman was granted a compensation of Rs 3 lakh vide an order dated August 9, 2019, another, who had been a victim of trafficking as well as rape, was granted Rs 4 lakh on an order issued on September 6, 2019. The SLSA had also directed them to file a compliance report within 40 days from the date of receipt of the compensation.
- Setting aside and quashing the SLSA order, the Calcutta High Court observed that it has no authority to control and monitor the compensation disbursed to a victim who has attained the age of 18.
- The court observed that, as it is, the quantum of compensation is meagre and ought not to be fettered.
- Counsel for the petitioners in both the cases argued that such curbs was de hors (outside the scope of) the provisions of the West Bengal Victim Compensation Scheme, 2017, framed by the West Bengal government.
- The court noted that the victims in both the writ petitions were over 18 when the compensation was awarded.
- Justice Bhattacharyya while setting aside the impugned orders of SLSA made an intriguing observation that we are in 2020 now, and not in ‘1984’ (as contemplated by George Orwell).
- As such, the ‘Big Brother’ approach of the disbursing authority should be shunned and the victim should be free to spend the compensation granted to her/him at her/his option.
- He also observed that a method of dictating expenditure and savings is counterproductive to the scheme of Section 357A of the Code of Criminal Procedure and would be an illegal fetter on the personal liberty of the victim.
Section 357 A of the Code of Criminal Procedure states about the Victim Compensation Scheme which can be studies as follows:
- Every State Government in co-ordination with the Central Government shall prepare a scheme for providing funds for the purpose of compensation to the victim or his dependents who have suffered loss or injury as a result of the crime and who, require rehabilitation.
- Whenever a recommendation is made by the Court for compensation, the District Legal Service Authority or the State Legal Service Authority, as the case may be, shall decide the quantum of compensation to be awarded under the scheme referred to in sub-section (1)
- If the trial Court, at the conclusion of the trial, is satisfied, that the compensation awarded under section 357 is not adequate for such rehabilitation, or where the cases end in acquittal or discharge and the victim has to be rehabilitated, it may make recommendation for compensation.
- Where the offender is not traced or identified, but the victim is identified, and where no trial takes place, the victim or his dependents may make an application to the State or the District Legal Services Authority for award of compensation.
- On receipt of such recommendations or on the application under sub-section (4), the State or the District Legal Services Authority shall, after due enquiry award adequate compensation by completing the enquiry within two months.
- The State or the District Legal Services Authority, as the case may be, to alleviate the suffering of the victim, may order for immediate first-aid facility or medical benefits to be made available free of cost on the certificate of the police officer not below the rank of the officer in charge of the police station or a Magistrate of the area concerned, or any other interim relief as the appropriate authority deems fit.
Justice Bhattacharyya said that, “We are in 2020 now, and not in 1984. As such, the ”Big Brother” approach of the disbursing authority should be shunned and the victim should be free to spend the compensation granted to her/him at her/his option.” Justice added that, “She or he has every right and the liberty to choose the mode of expending the compensation amount, as she/he feels appropriate for her rehabilitation after the trauma of the offence.”
Edited by J. Madonna Jephi
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje