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Rights of Victims in Indian Criminal Justice System

There are people who are suffering beyond description. They are innocent people, they didn't bring this upon themselves. They are the victims of the sins of other people. And while it's hard to see, it's important to understand that these people exist. - Mia Farrow – Activist and Actress

Introduction:
In foreign countries, protection, assistance and compensation is given to victims of crime. However, in India, victims are mostly ignored in the criminal justice process. Indian laws need to be more Victim-oriented which includes greater respect for victims and their rights in the investigative and prosecution process. Also, provisions for greater choices to victims during trial of the accused, and a system of reparation or compensation especially for victims of violent crimes should be provided.

Inspite of presence of sections for rights to victims in Indian Constitution and Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 the criminal courts pretend to be ignorant of them. It was observed in Best Bakery’s case that the rights and interests of victims can be included and established in Indian Legal System.

The UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, 1985 recognized the significance of the necessity to set the standards and norms in international law for the protection of crime victims. It has recognized four major rights of victims: access to justice and fair treatment; restitution; compensation; and assistance.

Definitions A “Victim” is defined as a person who has suffered harm, either physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or violation of their fundamental rights, through acts or omissions considered to be violative of Indian criminal laws including those laws that prescribe criminal abuse of power.

According to the Indian legal framework, the term victim is defined under Section 2(wa) of the CrPC, 1973 as 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. Although, this definition suffers from obvious insufficiencies.

Provisions For Victims In Indian Criminal Laws:

After years of debates and discussions some of the provisions of international community of 1985 were recognized when the UN Declaration was adopted by the General Assembly. In general, a victim’s rights can be classified in to following classes:
  1. Right to be treated with self-respect
  2. Right to notification.
  3. Right to be present.
  4. Right to be heard.
  5. Right to rational protection from terrorization and injury.
  6. Right to restitution.
  7. Right to information.
  8. Right to compensation especially for crimes of violent nature.
  9. Right to speedy proceedings
  10. Rights to privacy

In our Indian criminal justice system, a victim suffers everyday as the crime is committed against him/her and also because he/she has to undergo a lot of manipulation of the existing system. Whereas, the person who is found guilty is sheltered, nursed, lighted, and entertained in prison for which the state gives the expenditure from the taxes that the victims of crime are not provided with.

Justice V. R Krishna Iyer in Rattan Singh v. State of Punjab correctly said that:
It is a weakness of our jurisprudence that victim of crime and the distress of the dependents of the victim do not attract the attention of law. However, the reimbursement for victims is still the disappearing opinion of our criminal law. This shows the deficiency in our system, which must be rectified by the legislature.

Constitution Of India-Rights To Victims:

Our Constitution of India is considered to be the supreme law of the land and the mother of all existing laws. The Indian Constitution includes some provisions for victim’s rights, their protection, and respects the idea of victim compensation. Article 14 and Article 21 inculcates some vital fundamental rights that are to be read with Directive Principles of State Polices mentioned in Articles 39A, 41, 46, and 51C.

As per Article 39A the state offers free legal assistance and guarantee for promoting justice on the grounds of equal opportunity. Article 41 of the Indian Constitution is relevant to the concept of victimology in a very broad manner as it commands inter alia so that the state might start making provision to secure public support in cases of incapacitation and also in cases of unjustifiable want.” If one empathetically interprets and imagines creatively one can discover the early stages of constitutional victimology. Moreover, Article 21 assures against unfair deprivation of life and liberty by compelling the state to compensate victims of criminal violence.


Victim’s Rights Under Indian Penal Code:

The Indian Penal Code is applicable to all Indian citizens who commit crimes within the Indian Territory. It is a list of offences and its punishment. The Code describes offence as an act or omission punishable by law. One of the major advantage to victims protection was received by the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 since, for the first time, it had introduced a number of new crimes for protection of women against acid attacks (Sec. 326A20 and 326B21), sexual harassment (Sec. 345A), voyeurism (Sec. 345C) and stalking (Sec. 345D) and it also widened the scope of definition of rape (Sec. 375) in IPC.

The two significant remedies of criminal justice system are compensation and restitution which now, have become civil remedies during the modern period. This invited the attention of various jurists to analyze the problems of victims from a different perspective to improve their position and bring them on equivalence with the accused.

Victim’s Rights Under Code Of Criminal Procedure:

Indian criminal law in a broad sense includes both the substantive criminal law and the procedural criminal law. Here, the Substantive criminal law describes offences and punishments for each of those offences, whereas the procedural criminal law manages the substantive law. In any circumstance where the procedural criminal law is absent, the substantive criminal law would be considered as almost worthless.

The basis of the process that consists plea bargaining are found in Section 206(1) and 206(3) of the CrPC. Plea Bargaining as a concept was introduced by The Law Commission of India in its 142nd, 154th and 177th reports. In these reports, the Committee advocated that the concept of plea-bargaining should be introduced into the Indian criminal justice system to enable the past resolution of criminal cases and lessen the burden on the courts.

The victim is represented by the Public Prosecutor who is appointed by the state. A proviso has been added to Section 24(8) which allows the victim to choose an advocate of his choice for assisting the public prosecutor according to the amendment of 2008. However the Code identifies few rights that favor the victims but they are not as operative as those of rights of accused. For example, the code grants a right to victim to choose his own private lawyer but the authority given to that lawyer is limited to appoint where he can only submit the written arguments after the evidence is recorded and only after the court permits.
  1. Rights Of Victims During Filing Fir:

    The police, being the primary authority plays an important since they are the first authority to examine the case from a victim’s perspective. Regrettably, in India the victims are still provided with the treatment as mentioned in the United Nation Handbook on Justice for Victims. The police, despite of being the primary authority to investigate into the case, are totally unaware of the international developments in areas such as victimology and well treatment that should be given to the victims.

    Negative and ill treatment by police themselves will form a wrong perception of Indian criminal justice system in the eyes of victims because as stated by United Nation Declaration, treatment with compassion and respect for their dignity” is no doubt found missing at this stage. Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act, No confession made to a police officer shall be proved as against a person accused of any offence, is not taken seriously and the government and the police department end up following the policy of sanitizing the police to a better treatment of victims.
     
  2. Rights Of Victims During Judgement:

    In a criminal case, after the judgment is pronounced, the victim’s role in that case ceases to exist. But the victim should be offered with some rights after the judgement in order to ensure complete justice.
     
  • Compensation to victim:
    while pronouncing the judgement, the victim should be given the right to get compensation. According to section 357(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the court has the right to grant compensation for any loss or injury suffered by the victim, even in cases where fine was not levied upon on the accused.
The Supreme Court of India in Harikishan & State of Haryana v. Sukhbir Singh observed that courts in India rarely make use of section 357 of CrPC to grant compensation to victims of crime. Keeping in mind the recommendations given by the Malimath Committee and the Law Commission, the legislature inserted a provision in section 372 of the Code through the Amendment Act of 2008 to provide victims their right of appeal.

Conclusion
The role of the victim in the Indian Criminal Justice system is followed by the common law tradition that was limited to that of a witness in the prosecution of an offence. The reason for this was the negative perception of the victim as a person who suffered harm, both physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or considerable damage of their fundamental rights.

As a result of which, the Indian criminal justice system has become a channel of social control by the state by taking over the right to prosecute the accused without the victim. There should be a replacement of the vertical criminal justice system by a horizontal justice system in which the punishment system is sought to be replaced by a negotiation system giving the victim a central role to play. However, our system persists with the vertical model of criminal justice.

References:
  1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/47748931_Victims_and_the_criminal_justice_system_in_India_Need_for_a_paradigm_shift_in_the_justice_system
  2. https://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/226732/12/12_%20chapter-iv%20victim%20rights%20and%20indian%20criminal%20justice%20syste.pdf
  3. http://nludelhi.ac.in/download/publication/2017/Duty%20of%20Frontline%20Professionals%20Towards%20securing%20justice%20for%20victims.pdf
  4. Ratan Singh v. State of Punjab, (1979) 4 SCC 719 (India).
  5. Dr.Pawankumar Mishra & Vivek Kumar, Criminal Justice Delivery System and Rights of Victim: Need for Introspection, NBU (March 11, 2021, 3:20 pm), https://ir.nbu.ac.in/bitstream/123456789/3051/1/September2016_03.pdf.
  6. Victim Rights and Indian Criminal Justice System, SHODHGANGA (March 11, 2021, 4:10 pm), https://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/226732/12/12_%20chapter-iv%20victim%20rights%20and%20indian%20criminal%20justice%20syste.pdf.
  7. Murugesan Srinivasan and Jane Eyre Mathew, Victims and the Criminal Justice System in India: Need for a Paradigm Shift in the Justice System, TEMIDA, Jun 2007, at pp 51-62.
  8. Basu, D.D, Constitutional Law of India (Nagpur: Wadhwa & Co.,2003)
  9. Dr.K.N. ChandrashekharanPillai, R.V. Kelkar’s Criminal Procedure, fifth ed., Eastern Book Company, Lucknow (2008), p.1.
  10. Recommendation 106 Malimath Commission Report, http://www.hrdc.net/sahrdc/hrfeatures/HRF88.htm
  11. K. Choockalingam, measures of Crime Victim in the Indian Criminal Justice System, (March 19, 2021, 6:00pm), http://www.unafei.or.jp/english/pages!RMS/No8 l .htm.
  12. Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, The Indian Criminal Justice System'', as quoted in KD Gaur, Criminal Law, Criminology and Administration of Criminal Justice, 2015
  13. Harikishan & State of Haryana v. Sukhbir Singh (1998) 4 sec 551.

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Yukta Kapadia - Amity University, Maharashtra - BA.LL.B – Semester 6(H)
Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: MA34026749653-14-0521

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