Delhi High Court orders Compensation to Nitish Katara’s Family

Delhi High Court orders Compensation to Nitish Katara’s Family

The Delhi High Court yesterday ordered compensation in the 2002 Nitish Katara murder case. A special bench, comprising justices Gita Mittal and J R Midha said that three convicts, including UP politician D P Yadav’s son Vikas, will have to pay compensation to the family of Katara who was murdered in 2002.

The Bench provided three weeks extra time to Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DLSA) OSD S S Rathi to enquire about the convicts’ capacity to pay the compensation.

Almost a year after reserving its verdict on appeals of three convicts against a lower court order awarding rigorous life imprisonment to the convicts for abducting and killing Nitish Katara in 2002, Delhi High Court on April 2, passed an order upholding the conviction of three convicts in the Nitish Katara murder case and said Katara’s murder was a case of “honor killing.”

The question of compensation to the victims has been upheld by the Courts in the country through a long list of judicial pronouncements. These victims of crimes were held entitled to reparation, restitution or compensation for loss or injury suffered by them.

The legal position that was prevalent until sometime back was that the civil law provided for remedies to award compensation for private wrongs and the criminal law punishes the wrong doer. This position has changed drastically, with certain legislations for victim compensation being enacted in countries including Canada, Australia, England, New Zealand, Northern Ireland and in certain States in the USA providing for restitution/reparation by Courts administering criminal justice.

At the international level, even the UN General Assembly recognized the right of victims of crimes to obtain compensation by passing a resolution titled 'Declaration on Basic Principles of Justice for Victims and Abuse of Power, 1985'. It again passed a resolution titled Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, 2005 which deals with the rights of victims of international crimes and related human rights violations. These principles were accepted by the Supreme Court in the case of State of Gujarat and Anr. v. Hon'ble High Court of Gujarat.

The Law Commission of India in its 41st Report submitted in 1969 discussed Section 545 of the Cr.P.C. of 1898 extensively. The 154th Law Commission Report on the CrPC devoted an entire chapter to ‘Victimology’ in which the growing emphasis on victim’s rights in criminal trials was discussed.

The law with regard to compensation has been established by the Supreme Court, in the landmark case of Ankush Shivaji Gaikwad Vs UOI. The Court in this case said that under Section 357 of the Criminal Procedure Code, courts dealing with criminal offences are bound to consider granting compensation to the victims or their families. It was observed that, “While the award or refusal of compensation in a particular case may be within the Court's discretion, there exists a mandatory duty on the Court to apply its mind to the question in every criminal case. Application of mind to the question is best disclosed by recording reasons for awarding/refusing compensation.”

This revolution in the field of shift from retribution to restitution began in the mid 1960s and gained momentum in the decades that followed. The clock appears to have come full circle, with the law makers and courts going back to a practice which was common place in ancient times.

Read more news about the Nitish Katara murder case here.