587 awarded victim compensation in West Bengal in six years, 60% for offences under POCSO

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Representational image | Photo Credit: VIVEK BENDRE

Between April 2016 and March 2022, State Legal Services Authority (SLSA) has awarded compensation to 587 victims of sexual assault and acid attacks under the West Bengal Victim Compensation Scheme 2017. In six years, the SLSA has disbursed ₹15.81 crore to the victims and their families. 

A closer look at the compensation awarded to cases under The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) amount to 354 (60%) of all cases for whom compensation has been awarded.  This is followed by compensation for survivors of acid attacks which have been awarded to 139 persons and accounts to 23% of all the cases of compensation. 

In the past six years 26 survivors of human trafficking and 26 rape survivors were also provided with compensation under the victim compensation scheme.

Registrar- cum- Deputy Secretary of SLSA Sukumar Mondal said that the compensation is awarded under The West Bengal Victim Compensation Scheme 2017 by the SLSA after completing all necessary procedures. The funds for the compensation are made available to the SLSA by the West Bengal government and according to the Registrar, whenever funds are available, the SLSA tries to disburse funds to the beneficiaries. Mr. Mondal said that another ₹48 lakh is being awarded as compensation to victims by the end of April.

Under The West Bengal Victim Compensation Scheme 2017, compensation is awarded under 11 categories, the lowest ₹50,000 and highest ₹3 lakh.  “In case the victim is less than 14 years of age the compensation shall be increased by 50% of the amount stated above,” the gazette notification issued by the State government in February 2017 says. 

Of late, the Calcutta High Court has intervened in a number of cases of sexual assault and directed at least two women IPS officers to supervise investigation in six allegations of sexual assault.

During a hearing of rape cases at the Calcutta High Court, a division Bench of Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj had on April 19 pointed out that most of rape cases involved minors.  

The process of victim compensation can be tedious and can sometimes take years. In many cases the victims and survivors sought compensation at the intervention of Calcutta High Court. In cases of human trafficking two orders of Calcutta High Court passed in the year 2018 are considered crucial for victim compensation.

Justice Rajasekhar Mantha in his order on July 25, 2018 had observed, “denial of compensation to such victim would continue such violation and perpetrate gross inhumanity on the victim in question”.  In another order on July 5, 2018, a division Bench of Justice Ravi Krishan Kapur and Justice Joymalya Bagchi had suggested provision for interim compensation for the survivors soon after recording of their statements under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). These orders have had far reaching implications.

While 26 survivors of human trafficking have been awarded, local organisations working with trafficking survivors in State pointed out that about 17 survivors are awaiting compensation for about one and a half years after orders have been passed.

Earlier this month on April 9, at a conference organised by the Calcutta High Court and SLSA on “Raising Awareness on Human Trafficking and Child Welfare” where senior Judges of the Supreme Court participated.

Justice Indira Banerjee of Supreme of Court of India, while speaking at the conference said perhaps time has come to think of an amendment in the law to deal with such cases where complaint is registered at the instance of a third parties, not even parties actually involved in the relationship. “Similarly, what is in the welfare of the child, what are the rights that child has and what is child abuse, there are complex issues which are often over-simplified…,” Justice Banerjee added.

Justice U. U. Lalit of Supreme Court who is also executive chairman of NALSA (National Legal Services Authority) suggested that there are a large number of para legal volunteers and some of them can be turned into “protection assistants” who should be on watch and guard and can bring children (below age of 18) out of the net of human trafficking.

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Printable version | Jun 1, 2022 11:25:37 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/587-awarded-victim-compensation-in-west-bengal-in-six-years-60-for-offences-under-pocso/article65351216.ece