(Photo: The Daily Guardian)


You want to report, but that could get your family in danger... And if you snitch on a real gang leader.... they can get you bad... [The] police don't have your back unless you're like someone on the news or whatever, and they will kind of give you witness protection. But that doesn't happen in the real world. 

-FEMALE, SACRAMENTO

 The expression 'victims of crime' has been defined in section 2 of the code of criminal procedure, 1973. Initially, the criminal justice system in India was focused on punishment as part of the crime without much attention on the suffering of victims of crime. The rights of prisoners were protected even after their conviction whereas little concern was shown for the rights of victims of crime. Though there is a wealth of data on victims of reported crime nationally, as well as various services and programs intending to meet their needs, there remains a dearth of clear information on how to interrupt cycles of violence and the persistence vulnerability that keeps such an overwhelming percentage at high risk of experiencing more crime.

 However, with the emergence of public interest litigation, the higher courts' attention was drawn to this lacunae in the existing criminal justice system by social activists, and the courts started granting compensatory relief to victims of crime, but comprehensive legislation on this aspect of criminal justice was still awaited. In recent times, among the many reforms canvassed for improving the criminal justice system is the one that advocates a victim orientation to criminal justice administration. Though there are some provisions under the Indian constitution and some sections in the code of criminal procedure, 1973 to protect the rights of the victims and for providing compensation, the criminal courts at the lower level in India have ignored those provisions for a long time and not utilized them during their sentencing processes.

 Victim plays an important role in the criminal justice system but his or her welfare is not given due regard by the state instrumentality. Thus, the role of high courts or the supreme court in our country in affirming and establishing their rights holds much importance. "Tears shed for the accused are traditional and trendy but has the law none for the victim of crime, the unknown martyrs"? This remark by the Hon'ble Justice VK Krishna Iyer aptly describes the plight of victims in the criminal justice system in our country. The victim is almost a forgotten entity in the criminal system rather the irony is that the victim sets the wheel of justice moving by giving information to the state instrumentalities without which the entire system would collapse.

 "Victims should come first"...

 It is of course an indisputable fact that victims of crime have long been a forgotten group, a group that suffered for centuries not only from society's neglect but also from the exploration of their rightful dias by the state. It is also true that they had their conflicts stolen by professionals and by the criminal justice system. However, the exceptional speed with which they were rediscovered and their cause adopted by the politicians, let alone the political climate that prevailed at the time of their rediscovery, is bound to raise questions about the real interests and motives behind what has been portrayed as a genuinely humanitarian and disinterest cause.

 A comprehensive legal code for victim compensation is a dire necessity. The time has come for the legislature to stop shirking its duty. Hence, a comprehensive legal code should be enacted providing for fair treatment, assistance, and adequate compensation to victims of crime. Only on embarking on this step can justice in its more altruistic forms be obtained. It should be made mandatory for the state to pay compensation to the victims of the crime of not only the private criminal wrongs but also for the criminal acts perpetrated by its agencies. This mandatory duty of the state gains importance from two points of view namely as a welfare state committed to the constitutional goal of social justice and secondly, for its failure to protect the life, liberty, and security of its citizens.

 Therefore, I would like to conclude with this quote-

 "Too much money.... often resulted in further crimes which were fatal to innocent victims who need not have been victims if justice had been put first and mercy second." 

-Agatha Christie

 


About Simran Saluja

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