"Dreadful crime challenges the belief in fundamental goodness of the society and if there is an understandable motive or response to some form of provocations, we can't comprehend them as it falls beyond the bonds of moral acceptability", observed the Orissa High Court on Wednesday, urging grant of compensation to victims even at the stage of bail.
The Single Bench was considering an application under Section 439, Cr.P.C., of the petitioner, in custody in connection with a case booked under Sections 285, 307 of I.P.C, alleged to have poured petrol on the victim's body (who had, in the Court's terms, "acted in good faith and showed good Samaritanism"), leading to severe burn injuries on the sensitive parts of his upper body.
"It is also imperative that the Trial Courts, while deciding bail cases of this nature, should consider awarding a reasonable amount as an interim award so that the victims, especially hailing from poor and underprivileged classes, can utilise the said amount for the purpose of meeting their medical expenses", opined the Judge.
The Court observed that amidst increasing concern for compensation to victims of crimes, Section 357A was inserted in the Code of Criminal Procedure in the year 2009. It was intended to reassure the victim that he or she is not forgotten in the criminal justice system. Though the amendments in 2009, left the character of Section 357 unaltered, with the introduction of this Section, the Court is empowered to direct the State to pay compensation to the victim in such cases where the compensation awarded under Section 357 is inadequate for such rehabilitation, or where the case ends in acquittal or discharge but the victim has to be rehabilitated.
"Under this provision, even if the accused is not tried but the victim needs to be rehabilitated, the victim may request the State or District Legal Services Authority to award him/her compensation. The scheme made way for an institutionalized payment of compensation to the victim by the state for any loss or injury caused to him by the offender. The responsibility has been imposed on the states to create and maintain a fund for the purpose. Despite the fact that the power stands vested in Courts under Section 357 and 357A of the Code, the provision have by and large faced selective institutional amnesia", reads the judgment.
Besides, the Single Judge appreciated that there are provisions in other legislations for payment of compensation to the victim, either by the trial court or by specially set up claims' tribunal. The right to compensation was later interpreted by the apex court as an integral part of right to life and liberty under Art. 21 of the Constitution.
"In a similar vein, the State of Odisha in exercise of the powers conferred by the provisions of Section 357A has formulated the Odisha Victim Compensation Scheme, 2017.According to the said scheme, compensation for burn injury victims is awarded depending on the grievousness of injury and related factors like disfigurement of the face etc", the Court reflected.
It was of the view that aA bare perusal Section 357 A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 makes it clear that whenever a recommendation is made by the Court for compensation, the District Legal Service Authority or the State Legal Service Authority, as the case may be, shall be saddled with the responsibility of deciding the quantum of compensation to be awarded under the scheme- "Theraison de'trefor such a reasoning is that if the Court comes across a fit case which shakes its conscience and if it opines that a citizen of the country has been let down by the State then as a measure of restitution as well as rehabilitation, it can order for appropriate compensation to be paid to the victim"
"There has been a general reluctance on the part of courts to exercise the power under Section 357 to the benefit of the victims. The courts have limited themselves to award of sentences with no mention of compensation to victims thereby denying their basic right", lamented the Judge.
In the light of facts and circumstances, the bench found the present case to be a fit case for an order for compensation to the victim through Odisha State Legal Services Authority. "The said authority must come to the aid of the victim by disbursing a reasonable sum of money commensurate with his sufferings and medical expenses as payable under the Odisha Victim Compensation Scheme, 2017", said the court, directing the State legal Service Authority to pay the appropriate compensation to the victim within four weeks.
The bench further made clear that in the event the Petitioner is convicted in the present case, the trial court shall consider further compensation which could be recovered from the offender in addition to the aforesaid sum, additionally, requiring the Trial Court to conclude the trial as expeditiously as possible.
"Considering the aforesaid discussion and taking into account the entirety of facts and circumstances of the case in hand, this Court is not inclined to release the accused Petitioner on bail", ruled the Judge, rejecting the bail petition.