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Protection Of Rights Of Victims In Criminal Justice System

The present article elaborately discusses the rights of victims in the Criminal Justice System, with a special focus on the Indian scenario.

The victimology movement, which has recently been seen to emerge in many parts of the world, suggests making victims a crucial part of the criminal justice system by giving them equal opportunities to be heard at various stages of a criminal trial to ensure that proper justice is done to all.

In India, the penal system has begun to acknowledge the concepts of prevention of crime and treatment and rehabilitation of criminals, which have been reiterated through many landmark judgments of the Supreme Court. Thus, the article also discusses the protection of the victim rights with reference to various landmark judgments of the court over the years.

Introduction
Victims have legal rights, including the right to be informed, present, and heard in a country's criminal justice system. The term 'victim,' according to the dictionary, refers to a person who is put to death or tortured by another person, a person who suffers severely in body or property as a result of cruel or oppressive treatment, and a person who is reduced or destined to suffer as a result of some oppressive or destructive agency. [1]

"Persons who, individually or collectively, have suffered harm, including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss, or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights, through acts or omissions that are in violation of criminal laws operative within the Member States, including those laws prohibiting criminal abuse of power," according to the UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power.[2]

India's Criminal Justice System Is Governed By Four Primary Laws:

  1. The Indian Constitution of 1950
  2. The Indian Penal Code, which was enacted in 1860.
  3. The 1973 Code of Criminal Procedure
  4. The 1870 Indian Evidence Act

The term "victim" is defined in Section 2(wa) of the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973 as "any individual who has incurred any loss or injury as a result of the conduct or omission for which the accused person has been charged; and the expression victim includes the accused person's guardian or legal heir."[3]

Victims' Rights in India's Criminal Justice System

Victims Of Crime Have The Following Basic Rights:
  1. The Right To Participate In Criminal Proceedings:

    Victims of crime and their families have the right to be present during criminal procedures. It is critical for the families to witness the accused's trial and the criminal justice system in action. They may wish to hear the victim's and offender's attorneys' arguments, witness statements, and the judge's views.

    Victims are welcome to attend the proceedings. The victim has the right to attend criminal processes, such as the offender's trial, sentence, and parole hearing, among others.
    Witnesses are not allowed to testify. In criminal situations where the victim is also a witness, the victim's right to attend trial is frequently restricted. Witnesses can be excluded, or "sequestered," during a trial, according to a long-standing rule of evidence.

    This rule was created to protect witnesses from being swayed by the testimony of other witnesses in a criminal case. However, some jurisdictions are changing the law by allowing victims to remain in the courtroom as witnesses or asking the concerned court to first decide that the victim's testimony is likely to be influenced by the testimony of other witnesses.

    Support Persons Must Be Present During Criminal Procedures All victims of crime must have a support person present during the criminal proceedings. This supporting aid to the victim, which may be provided in the presence of a trusted lawyer or family member, will guarantee that the victim is able to exercise his or her right to be present throughout the proceedings.
     
  2. The Right To File A Claim For Compensation

    Crime victims have the right to seek compensation. Compensation for crime victims should be a state-run programme that compensates victims of violent crime. In most cases, victims apply to the state's compensation programme in which they live or where the crime occurred, although impacted or surviving family members may also be eligible for compensation. Victims may be compensated even if the accused is not caught or convicted of the act.

    Eligibility
    For example, only direct victims of violent crime or their surviving family members are eligible to petition for victim's compensation. The victim may seek compensation from the court for the costs of counselling. The victim must have reported the incident and cooperated with the investigation in order to be eligible for compensation. Victims must also make an application within a specific time frame in order to get compensation from the lawsuit. In some circumstances, however, victims are ineligible for compensation because their own actions led to the harm.

    Expenses that can be reimbursed, Victims of crime might be reimbursed for medical bills, counselling fees, lost earnings, and funeral costs through compensation schemes.
     
  3. The Right To Be Heard And To Take Part In Criminal Proceedings

    One of the most important rights for crime victims is the right to be heard. Every victim has the right to be heard and to participate equally in criminal justice processes affecting their interests. This is the most common way for victims to take an active role in the criminal justice system and express their opinions and testimonies.

    When a victim is allowed to testify during a sentencing hearing or submit a victim impact statement on the impact of the crime on him or her and their family, the court acknowledges the personal character of the crime and the suffering caused.

    Consultation with the Prosecutor
    Another right of a crime victim is to speak with the prosecutor in the case. Before the court makes a final decision, the prosecutor must gather the victim's perspective. The prosecutor must certify to the court that he or she has contacted the victim before entering a plea, whether it involves a plea agreement, dismissal of charges, or a pretrial diversion of the defendant.

    Communication with the Court or other Governmental Entities, A crime victim's right to be heard by the court at sentencing is also protected.
     
  4. The Right To Information

    The criminal justice system ensures the rights of victims and their families to receive general information of interest to them so that they are kept aware about criminal justice processes and events, as well as legal rights and remedies, and accessible services.

    Victims will be given general information.
    All general information about the victim's legal rights must be conveyed to the. Attend a criminal hearing and/or give a victim impact statement; sue the offender for compensation in the civil justice system; and get a court order to protect the victim and his or her family from the offender are some of the basic but crucial rights.

    Notice of Criminal Justice Process Events and Proceedings
    In the usual course of the criminal justice process, the state is compelled to provide a notice to the victim for a variety of events and processes. Victims must be notified of events and actions at all stages of the criminal justice process, such as the arrest of the accused, the release of bail, the dismissal of charges, and trial dates and times.
     
  5. The Right To Be Free From Harassment And Intimidation

    During the criminal justice process, victims have the right to be protected against intimidation and harassment. This right to protection might be expressed as a basic right to protection or as a set of specific protective measures.

    Preventative Actions
    There are several safeguards in place to protect victims of crime from harassment. Police escorts to and from court; secure waiting areas separate from those of the accused, his or her family, witnesses, and friends during court proceedings; witness protection programmes; residence relocation; and denial of bail or imposition of specific bail conditions-such as no-contact orders-for defendants found to pose a danger to the community or to protect the safety of victims and/or witnesses.
     
  6. The Right To Seek Restitution From The Perpetrator

    The phrase "restitution" refers to the restoration of the defendant's injury, most typically in the form of monetary compensation. It can also refer to the return or repair of property that has been taken or damaged during the crime.

    The term 'restitution' often refers to the restoration of harm caused by the perpetrator, usually in the form of monetary compensation. Restitution also refers to the return or restoration of property that has been stolen or damaged as a result of the offence. In general, the losses to be reimbursed as restitution should be directly tied to the offence, such as medical expenditures, lost wages, and counselling costs, among other things. It does not cover mental discomfort or harm, but it does have enough coverage to cover reasonably expected future losses. The court must consider the losses suffered by the victim of the crime when determining the sum to be paid as compensation.
     
  7. The Right To Receive The Restitution Of Personal Property Taken As Evidence As Soon As Possible.

    Crime victims may lose property as a result of theft or when it is taken and held as evidence, but the criminal justice system guarantees the victim's right to timely return of confiscated personal property.
     
  8. The Right To A Prompt Trial

    Victims of crime have the same right to a swift trial as everyone else. The victim's impact on the trial process must be considered by the court. Before the lawsuit becomes pointless for the parties, the decision must be resolved and the case must be free of any unjustified delay.
     
  9. The Right To Have The Rights Of Victims Enforced.

    As previously stated, crime victims have specific legal and statutory rights. That is why it is equally necessary to ensure that such rights are effectively enforced.

Mechanisms of Enforcement
Victims of crime have legal standing in court to assert their rights. Because a victim of a crime is not a party to the case, his or her legal standing is restricted to that of the defendant and the prosecuting jurisdiction; as a result, the victim's legal standing must be automatic and established by statute or court order.

In addition to victims' basic legal standing to pursue their rights, certain jurisdictions have limited court remedies for enforcing their rights. As a result, there must be a designated organisation to investigate and handle crime victim complaints, as well as a state victim advocate to intervene if the victim's rights are violated.

Final Thoughts
It is important to remember that no country's good criminal justice system can afford to ignore the rights and plights of crime victims. With an ever-increasing number of crimes, it is critical that the system gives equal weight to the rights of both the accused and the victims in order to ensure equality and justice.

The victimology movement, which has recently gained traction in several parts of the world, advocates for making victims an integral part of the criminal justice system, which can be accomplished by providing victims with equal opportunities to be heard at various stages of the criminal justice process, ensuring that they receive proper justice. On that basis, it is said that India's current criminal justice system requires an administration that is more sympathetic to the predicament of victims and extends victim rights protection.

End-Notes:
  1. Siddhant Mishra, The rights of victims and criminal justice system
  2. Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, Compendium of United Nations standards and norms in crime prevention and criminal justice.
  3. The Code of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, sec. 2 (wa).
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