The Karnataka High Court has suggested that while delivering final judgments after completion of trial, Magistrate and Sessions Judge must pass a reasoned order as to whether there is a need to make a recommendation for payment of compensation for the rehabilitation of the victim of a crime or not, under Section 357A of the Criminal Procedure Code.
A division bench of Justice K. Somashekar and Justice Shivashankar Amarannavar said, "Looking into the welfare object behind Section 357A of the Code, which is apparent from the text of the provision, this Court is of the opinion that the Magistrate and the Sessions Judge while delivering final judgments, after completion of the trial, must pass a reasoned order as to whether there is a need to make a recommendation for payment of compensation for the rehabilitation of the victim of a crime or not."
The bench however cautioned that Trial Court, before recommending compensation under Section 357A of the Code, should ensure that the scheme is not misused to claim compensation by registering a false criminal case. "Whenever the Court finds that the crime has not taken place and there is no victim of the crime, then there cannot be a recommendation to pay the compensation."
The direction was given while dismissing an appeal filed by one D Reddeppa challenging the judgment of acquittal passed by Principal Sessions Judge, Kolar where the Respondent-accused were acquitted for offences punishable under Sections 144, 148, 323, 307, 504 and 302 read with Section 149 of IPC.
While the High Court trial court's order giving benefit of reasonable doubt to the Respondents, it however noted that the deceased's husband was widowed at the age of 40. Yet, the Sessions Court had not passed any order under Section 357A of the Code relating to compensation payable to the victim.
It reminded that the provision enables the Court to award compensation even where the cases end in acquittal or discharge. It "aims to compensate the victims of the crime. Unlike Section 357, the recommendation to pay compensation to the victim is not dependent on the verdict of guilty. Even in the event of acquittal or discharge of the accused, there can be a recommendation for compensation under Section 357A of the Code."
From the combined reading of Section 357 and 357A of the Code, the bench said that the Court needs to answer 3 questions before passing appropriate orders under Section 357A of the Code. a) Whether the person is a victim of a crime or not? b) Whether compensation is to be awarded in favour of the victim or not? c) Whether compensation can be recovered from the accused? If the answer to question (a) and (b) is 'yes' and the answer to question (c) is 'no' then there must be a recommendation to the District Legal Services Authority or the State Legal Services Authority for payment of compensation as provided under Section 357A(2)(3) of the Code.
In the instant case, though the accused was acquitted, the Court said that deceased's family will be entitled to compensation.
"In terms of the mandate under sub-section(2) of Section 357A of the Code, the Court may recommend the District Legal Services Authority or the State Legal Services Authority for compensation to be paid to the victim."
It noted the scope and nature of enquiry are spelt out in 'The Karnataka Victim Compensation Scheme, 2011'. Such an exercise must be carried out in an expeditious manner. From a reading of sub-section (2) of Section 357A of the Code, no time limit is prescribed for the Court to make recommendations for rehabilitation and compensation.
Then referring to the coordinate bench judgement in the case of The State through CPI Devadurga Police Station v. Laxmi W/o Durappa, in Criminal Appeal No.3628/2012 decided on 20.04.2022. The bench said, "The word 'Court' referred to sub-section(2) of Section 357A has been held to include the 'trial Court' as well as the 'appellate Court'."
Accordingly, it directed District Legal Services Authority to determine the compensation in this case in terms of Karnataka Victim Compensation Scheme, 2011.
Case Title: D Reddeppa v. The State of Karnataka
Case No: CRIMINAL APPEAL No. 1113/2015
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Kar) 374
Date of Order: 5TH DAY OF SEPTEMBER 2022
Appearance: Advocate S.B. Pavin for appellant; Vijaykumar Majage, Addl. SPP for R1; Srinath B.V, Advocate, M.R.Nanjunda Gowda, Advocate for R2 to R15