12 Sep 2023 4:55 AM GMT
The Calcutta High Court recently allowed a plea for enhancement of compensation awarded to a minor girl, who was the victim of an acid attack in 2018.Justice Shekhar B Saraf directed the State to pay a further compensation of Rs 7.5 lakhs to the minor girl child, under the NALSA’s Compensation Scheme for Women Victims/Survivors of Sexual Assault/Other Crimes, 2018 (NALSA guidelines), which...
The Calcutta High Court recently allowed a plea for enhancement of compensation awarded to a minor girl, who was the victim of an acid attack in 2018.
Justice Shekhar B Saraf directed the State to pay a further compensation of Rs 7.5 lakhs to the minor girl child, under the NALSA’s Compensation Scheme for Women Victims/Survivors of Sexual Assault/Other Crimes, 2018 (NALSA guidelines), which has been directed to be implemented pan India, by the Apex Court in the case of Nipun Saxena v Union of India.
Condemning the State’s lackadaisical approach of awarding inadequate compensation to a minor acid attack survivor, in violation of the Supreme Court’s directions of implementation of NALSA’s compensation scheme, the Bench held:
"In Nipun Saxena & anr. Vs. Union of India & ors. (supra) that the Supreme Court has directed all States to follow the best practices stipulated in NALSA’s [guidelines]. The Apex Court’s judgement has created an obligation upon the State Governments to have similar provisions in consonance with such Scheme. It appears that the State of West Bengal has not complied with the mandate of the Supreme Court and has failed to amend its own scheme of compensation in tune with NALSA’s [guidelines]. This Court, accordingly, directs the Government to immediately act in accordance with the Supreme Court judgement and frame its scheme as per NALSA’s [guidelines] within a period of eight weeks from date...It is unfortunate that this State, which was once known for its progressive feminist discourse… has forgotten its feminist roots."
These observations came in a case involving an acid attack in 2018, when a then-minor girl (aged 17) and her brother (aged 14), had been assaulted with acid. As a result, the victims were compensated, with the brother receiving Rs 4.5 lakhs, and the minor girl receiving Rs 3 lakhs in accordance with the West Bengal Victim Compensation Scheme, 2017.
The present plea was filed praying for directions upon the State to enhance the compensation received by the minor girl in accordance with the compensation scheme laid out under NALSA’s guidelines, affirmed by the Supreme Court, which directed that a minimum compensation of Rs 7-8 lakhs would need to be awarded to the minor girl victims.
Upon looking at various Apex Court judgements on the issue, the Bench held that through repeated pronouncements, the Supreme Court had considered the plight faced by acid attack victims, and had also directed for scrupulous adherence to the NALSA guidelines.
The court noted that although the Apex Court’s decisions had created an obligation on the State to amend its own compensation guidelines for acid attack victims along the lines of the NALSA guidelines, West Bengal government had failed to do so.
Accordingly, in reminding the State of its duties and feminist roots, and directing it to frame its own scheme along the lines of the NALSA guidelines, the Court directed for the minor girl child to be further compensated to the tune of Rs 7.5 lakhs to keep with the scheme framed under the NALSA guidelines.
Mr. Gopal Krishna Gokhale, the prominent freedom fighter, had once said “what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow” – this saying was so relevant in the early 1900’s; however, the position today is antithetical and the State of West Bengal lags in almost all areas of progress and governance as well as following best practices that are mandated by the Supreme Court of India. It is unfortunate that this State, which was once known for its progressive feminist discourse, with women such as Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, Sarojini Naidu Chattopadhyay and many others, has forgotten its feminist roots. The State Government should take note of Bengal’s rich feminist history and ensure that Gokhale’s saying once again finds relevance in today’s time.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Cal) 277
Case: Paramita Bera & Anr. V The Union of India & Ors.
Case No: WPA 5633 of 2021
Click Here To Read/Download Judgment