"System Can't Turn The Clock Back Nor 'Undo' Offence": Delhi HC Awards ₹6 Lakh Interim Compensation To Minor Sexual Assault Victim
In a significant observation, the Delhi High Court on Thursday (May 13), while awarding ₹6 lakh as interim compensation to a minor victim of sexual assault, remarked, "Since the system cannot turn the clock back nor 'undo' the offence, there is little else the court can do other than prosecute the offender and provide to the victim whatever psychological security and sense of...
In a significant observation, the Delhi High Court on Thursday (May 13), while awarding ₹6 lakh as interim compensation to a minor victim of sexual assault, remarked,
"Since the system cannot turn the clock back nor 'undo' the offence, there is little else the court can do other than prosecute the offender and provide to the victim whatever psychological security and sense of the empowerment that monetary compensation can give."
The Bench of Justice Anup J. Bhambhani directed the Delhi State Legal Services Authority to disburse and pay interim compensation in the sum Rs. Six Lacs Only, while setting aside the lower court's order assessing interim compensation at Rs. 50,000.
Importantly, the Court also observed that while attempting to quantify the compensation payable to the petitioner even at the interim stage,
"The effort of this court should be to offer monetary recompense, to the extent possible, for the atonement of the crime to which the petitioner was subject; the physical and mental trauma suffered by him; and the emotional scar left on his psyche."
The matter before the Court
The petitioner, a boy aged about 06 years, who was allegedly subjected to sexual assault and sodomy by his relative, filed the instant petition through his mother impugning order dated 19th August 2020 made by the Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) (POCSO), Saket Courts, New Delhi.
The Sessions Court had awarded to the petitioner, who was the victim of the offence, interim compensation of Rs. 50,000, however, the prosecution of the accused was underway as in, the trial isn't over as yet.
Submissions put forth
Challenging this order, the Counsel for the petitioner argued that the court failed to appreciate that, even at the interim stage, compensation was to be granted to a minor who is a victim of sexual abuse.
"It was to enable the victim and his family to overcome the incident and to compensate for the damaging effect on the victim's psyche and to help rehabilitate the victim into society, for 'relief' and 'rehabilitation', and not merely to cover for the expenses to be incurred for the time being, submitted the Counsel.
It was also argued that Treating the Delhi Victim Compensation Scheme 2018 ('DVC Scheme 2018', for short) as a benchmark, interim compensation awarded should have been somewhere between Rs. 6 lacs and Rs.10.50 lacs
On behalf of the State, the Additional Standing Counsel argued that the DVC Scheme 2018 was not binding on the ASJ, and she further justified the grant of a minimum threshold amount of Rs.50,000/- provided under the DVC Scheme 2018, as no basis was provided in the application under section 33(8) of the POCSO Act for calculating the compensation to be paid.
At the outset, the Court observed that in a case involving crime against a minor, regardless of gender, section 33(8) of the POCSO Act provides for payment of compensation to the victim.
The Court further observed that insofar as the State of Delhi is concerned, if a victim applies for compensation to the DLSA or DSLSA, the concerned authority is required to assess and pay compensation under and in accordance with the DVC Scheme 2018
However, the Court added:
"If a victim applies for compensation under section 33(8) before the special POCSO court, the DVC Scheme 2018 is not binding but serves merely as a 'guideline' for the court to assess and pay compensation, whether at the interim or final stage."
Further, while quoting Rule 9 of the POCSO Rules 2020, the Court said that the empowered a court to award interim compensation in appropriate cases, on its own or on an application filed by a victim.
In this backdrop, the Court said that a direction to pay a quantified amount as compensation would obviously be binding with no discretion left with the legal service authority.
Further, the Court observed that the accused is the petitioner's uncle, who is alleged to have subjected the petitioner to the offences as detailed above, apart from having suffered the brutal, physical offences in what should have been the 'safety' of his own home, it is not just likely but certain that the petitioner, being only a 6-year old child, has suffered extreme psychological trauma, mental agony and post-traumatic stress.
Accordingly, the Court remarked,
"While attempting to quantify the compensation payable to the petitioner even at the interim stage, the effort of this court should be to offer monetary recompense, to the extent possible, for atonement of the crime to which the petitioner was subject; the physical and mental trauma suffered by him; and the emotional scar left on his psyche."
The Court also noted that it was necessary to put money in the hands of the petitioner's family, to arrange for the petitioner to safely attend the school he was attending earlier or some other school and to cater to his educational needs.
"The petitioner's mother would need to spend more time with him to give the petitioner emotional security, since he was assaulted by a relative in his own home; by reason of which she may not be able to go to work," added the Court.
In view of the above discussion, the Court ordered said the Delhi State Legal Services Authority is directed to disburse and pay to the petitioner interim compensation in the sum of Rs. 6,00,000/- within 04 weeks.