Calcutta High Court on Friday ruled that victims of acid attacks prior to 31 December, 2009, i.e. the insertion of Section 357A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 would be entitled to compensation.
“Section 357A is a beneficial piece of legislation introduced for the benefit of the victims of a crime. It does not prescribe a time limit. It does not say that, a crime occurring prior to a specified date is not covered thereunder. As noted above, it is not introducing a criminal liability. It is time neutral, that is to say that, it does not distinguish between victims of a crime happening prior to the introduction of the section to the statute with those incidents of crime happening post its introduction in the statute book. The section itself not making any distinction between victims on the basis of the time of occurrence of the crime, the same cannot be read into it,” Justice Debangsu Basak observed.
The Court was hearing a Petition filed by an acid attack victim, Ms. Piyali Dutta who had sought compensation under Section 357A of the Cr.P.C. despite the fact that the provision was not in place in 2005 when she was attacked. Ms. Dutta had also made reference to the West Bengal Victim Compensation Scheme, 2017 and the Victim Compensation Scheme, 2012, to contend that these schemes did not have a cut-off date.
The claim for compensation was resisted by the State on the ground that the incident had occurred prior of the introduction of the requisite provisions as well as the victim compensation schemes.
The Court noted that clause 9 of the State scheme prescribes a time limit of 180 days for making an application for compensation. This time limit may be extended with the satisfaction of the adjudicating authority.
It, however, opined that such restrictions have to be read in harmony with Section 357A and observed, “Clause (9) of the Scheme of 2017 cannot be read to be in derogation of Section 357A or introducing anything not contemplated by Section 357A. Section 357A not specifying a time prior to which an acid attack victim cannot receive compensation, the Scheme of 2017 and clause (9) thereunder should be read accordingly. Scheme of 2017 therefore does not prevent a victim of a crime specified therein to apply for compensation provided such applicant satisfies the adjudicating authority that he/she was prevented by sufficient cause beyond the prescribed period of 180 days from the date of occurrence of crime in applying.”
The State was, thereafter, directed to consider Ms. Dutta’s application for compensation within two weeks.
Read the Judgment Here