The legal provision to give compensation to victims of crime came into effect in December 2009 in Tamil Nadu, but the scheme for the purpose has not been prepared and brought into force. The result: the object for which the provision was made is yet to be achieved. No court or legal services authority in the State is in a position to recommend compensation even in cases where the victims deserve the relief as a measure of rehabilitation.

Justice S. Nagamuthu of the Madras High Court made the observation while dismissing a writ petition in which a person sought compensation of Rs. seven lakh for the death of his daughter nearly 12 years ago. The petitioner alleged that his daughter was raped and murdered.

When the court brought the matter to the government counsel’s notice, he produced a letter from the Special Secretary, Home, of June 6, in which it was stated that “the State Government is in the process of framing a victim compensation scheme which would be notified within 45 days.”

The Judge hoped that the government would bestow its attention on the laudable object for which the provision had been brought in and prepare the scheme within the time limit.

If there was a scheme under Section 357 (A) (Victim Compensation Scheme) of Cr.P.C, it would enable criminal courts as well as the legal services authorities to recommend payment of compensation. In the absence of any such scheme, the power under Article 226 (Power of High Courts to issue writs) could not be doubted at all for ordering compensation in an appropriate case. Though this power was available to the court, in the present case, he was not inclined to order compensation because there were disputed questions of fact — such as whether there was any rape, murder and whether there was any attempt to cover up the crime — which could not be resolved in the writ petition. In 2002, the trial court acquitted all the accused. In 2006, the High Court confirmed the lower court’s judgment.

Mr.Justice Nagamuthu said sub-section (1) of Section 357-A made it clear that it was the obligation of the State government, in coordination with the Centre, to prepare a scheme for granting compensation to crime victims. If there was any such scheme, as per the provision, victims would be entitled to compensation as a measure of rehabilitation even if the case ended in acquittal or the accused were discharged.

“Introducing the scheme will go a long way in providing much-needed financial relief for crime victims. If the scheme is in place, it will enable judges to order compensation based on facts and circumstances. This is particularly necessary in the case of rape victims,” said V. Kannadasan, an advocate.