17 States have already set up relief fund for victims of rape, sexual assault and acid attacks

The outrage over the gang rape at Shakti Mills here of a photojournalist has prodded the Maharashtra government into paying for the survivor’s medical expenses. A sum of Rs. 1.85 lakh will be paid from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund to the hospital where she was treated. But the disturbing reality is that this is not the norm. Maharashtra has no scheme to compensate rape victims and lags behind as many as 17 other States which do.

This, even after the National Commission for Women drafted a scheme for compensating and supporting rape victims way back in 1995. It was implemented by a few States but Maharashtra still has to adopt it 13 years down the line.

CrPC amendment

In 2009, the Code of Criminal Procedure was amended, making it mandatory for the States to set up a “victim compensation relief fund” for victims or rape, sexual assault and acid attacks. Seventeen States followed, but four years on Maharashtra has not implemented this either.

PIL petition

Maharashtra’s tardiness in adopting these vital schemes has resulted in the filing of a public interest litigation petition in the Bombay High Court.

In an order in July, a Division Bench of the court demanded that the State implement the scheme by September end.

‘More urgency needed’

Justice S.C. Dharmadhikari and Justice S.B. Shukre said, “We would expect a welfare state to show a better sense of urgency in formulating and implementing such a scheme. The scheme offers some solace to victims of abuse and violence, particularly women and children.”

However, The Hindu has learnt that the scheme is not yet ready. Officials from the State Women and Child Welfare Department said the delay was because approvals were sought from multiple departments.“We invited comments from departments, including home, public health, law and rehabilitation. Their feedback has helped formulate a better draft. It will also have to be placed before the Cabinet,” said an official from the Women and Child Welfare Department.

Activists say they are disappointed. “It is a shame that a progressive State like Maharashtra has still not come up with a scheme to compensate and assist rape victims. It’s important to implement it as soon as possible. Then instead of choosing whom to compensate, the State will have to follow a uniform policy,” said Vijay Hiremath, lawyer for the petitioner, the Forum Against Oppression of Women.

The petition said there was an 873% increase in rape cases across the country between 1971 and 2011. As many as 24,206 such cases were reported by the National Crime Records Bureau in 2011. Maharashtra reported the highest share — 15.3% in the 267 cases of incest rape reported the same year.

Despite policies and laws that called upon the State governments to provide legal, medical and financial assistance to rape victims, the State had not done so, the petition alleged.