Supreme Court today directed the West Bengal government to pay Rs. Five lakh compensation in addition to already sanctioned Rs 50,000 to the 20-year-old Birbhum gang-rape victim.
A bench comprising of Chief Justice P Sathasivam, Justice S A Bobde and Justice N V Ramana has also said the state government has failed to protect the fundamental right of the victim, a young tribal woman who was gang raped allegedly by 13 villagers in Birbhum district in January this year. The bench further said that all states are duty bound to protect the rights of women and that they have freedom of choice in marriage.
On January 31, the apex court had directed the West Bengal chief secretary to respond on what action police had taken in the case of gang rape of the woman allegedly on the orders of a kangaroo court as punishment for falling in love with a man outside her community. Live Law Report here. After going through the report of the chief secretary, the bench had said the state government had taken steps but more effective action was required to be taken.
The bench had taken suo motu cognizance of the incident on January 24 and had directed the district judge to visit the place and file a report to it. Live Law Report here.
The victim and her paramour were caught, tied to a tree and assaulted after which they were asked to pay a fine of Rs 50,000. The gang rape took place after the girl expressed her inability to pay the amount. The victim and her family members in their complaint before the police had said that among those who brutalized her were people old enough to be her father. All the accused, including village head have been arrested.
Regarding the Compensation Bench observed as follows;
The report of the Chief Secretary indicates the steps taken by the State Government including the compensation awarded. Nevertheless, considering the facts and circumstances of this case, we are of the view that the victim should be given a compensation of at least Rs. 5 lakhs for rehabilitation by the State. We, accordingly, direct the Respondent No. 1 (State of West Bengal through Chief Secretary) to make a payment of Rs. 5 lakhs, in addition to the already sanctioned amount of Rs. 50,000, within one month from today. Besides, we also have some reservation regarding the benefits being given in the name of mother of the victim, when the victim herself is a major (i.e. aged about 20 years). Thus, in our considered view, it would be appropriate and beneficial to the victim if the compensation and other benefits are directly given to her and accordingly we order so.
Further, we also wish to clarify that according to Section 357B, the compensation payable by the State Government under Section 357A shall be in addition to the payment of fine to the victim under Section 326A or Section 376D of the IPC
Court further observed regarding the duty of Medical Institutions as follows;
Likewise, all hospitals, public or private, whether run by the Central Government, the State Government, local bodies or any other person, are statutorily obligated under Section 357C to provide the first-aid or medical treatment, free of cost, to the victims of any offence covered under Sections 326A, 376, 376A, 376B, 376C, 376D or Section 376E of the IPC.
Court is in a view that rehabilitation of victim is also of paramount importance and the obligation of the State does not extinguish on payment of compensation.
Read the Judgment