Experts feel that crime victims in India are generally ignored in the justice system which leads to their secondary victimization in the whole process. Although there are many NgOs and groups which help victims to cope with the aftermath of criminal incid
Experts feel that crime victims in India are generally ignored in the justice system which leads to their secondary victimization in the whole process. Although there are many NGOs and groups which help victims to cope with the aftermath of criminal incidents, there is no law in India which caters to their rights.
generally, a victim not only suffers from a single incident of crime but also from a series of traumatic experiences which follow after the event. In most cases, the crime affects the victim’s family in a similar intensity. It also results in a serious financial loss, physical and psychological injuries along with mild disturbances in the victim’s routine lifestyle. Punishing a criminal through a legal system is an affirmative way of providing justice to the victim. however, in no way it compensates the victim for the loss which he or she has to endure in the aftermath.
Ideally, the victim deserves a similar kind of protection and attention from police and the court like an accused, feels Parvez hayat, Additional Director general of the Bureau of Police research and Development. “however that is not the case in India,” he says. At present there is no law in India catering to the rights of victims like the way it caters to the rights of an accused.
While it is a known fact that when a victim reports a crime to the police, he or she does not remain a passive subject but becomes an active component in the judicial process. however, in India it has been observed that the victim loses confidence and interest in the process of adjudication. According to experts, a crime victim or a complainant in India is only a witness for the prosecution whereas the accused has been bestowed with many rights. It has also been observed that the victim has no right to protect his or her interests during criminal proceedings. sometimes, even for registering a criminal case at a police station one has to depend upon the mercy of the police officer.
“In the existing criminal justice system, a victim to a crime does not have any significant role to play as the investigation of the crime is the exclusive domain of the police officer,” says hayat. he further says that though the Code of Criminal Procedure does not completely prohibit the victim from participating in court proceedings, the role of the lawyer engaged by the victim is very limited.
The United Nations declaration recognizes access to justice and fair treatment, restitution, compensation and assistance as integral aspects of the criminal justice process for the victim. hence, hayat feels that it is imperative to develop a victim-oriented approach towards the entire criminal justice
system in India. “At present, the state police manual talks about the rights of the accused but there is hardly any mention about victims. This should change in order to strike a balance in the criminal justice process,” says the 1984 batch IPs officer of the Jharkhand Cadre.
VICTIM IS A STATE RESPONSIBILITY
According to experts, it is often seen that individual victims feel insecure and find the police unapproachable. Likewise, how their family members are coping with the situation becomes unbearable to them. Thus, they resort to thinking of suicide in life. “In this case it is the onus of the state to take the responsibility of the victim,” says hayat.
The Bureau ADg believes that the needs of vulnerable sections of Indian society, including women and children, have not been given adequate attention in the criminal justice system. he is of the view that every state government should ensure that the victim is provided with safety information, guidance and legal assistance service. The victim is the first informant of the incident and is, therefore, entitled to get a copy of an FIr free of cost. And it should be the duty of the concerned police officer to inform victims about their right to legal representation before any questioning. Likewise, a police report should also state that the victim was informed and guided and is willing to cooperate in the case. “The role of the police is also very crucial and important in assisting the victim,” adds the senior IPs officer.
According to experts, it is also important to study the mental status of the victim as criminal incidence in any individual’s life leaves manifold impact. The victim not only feels desolated but also stigmatized because of the traumatic incident and the aftermath, including police investigations and the cumbersome judicial process. Consequently, victims suffer injustice silently and in extreme cases, take the law into their own hands and seek revenge on the offender. hayat feels that there should be mandatory counselling by psychologists or psychiatrists in the case of major traumatic incidents. Besides, every state government should develop a victim support system.
he feels that any victim who approaches a police station should be entitled to receive counselling without being questioned about the traumatic incident. similarly, his or her privacy should be maintained and in a case where the victim needs any financial aid to travel back home he or she should be provided that help from state government funds. “A welfare-oriented state should take the responsibility of legal assistance, shelter, security and privacy. Likewise, big corporates through PPP or via their foundations should support those NgOs which are already working in these areas,” says hayat. he is also of the opinion that since Japan has legislated a victim-oriented policy and a crime-victim relief foundation, the Indian government should also think on similar lines.
There is no denying the fact that there are a number of NgOs which are taking the onus of counselling and reassuring justice to victims. however, it is the duty of every state to think about the well-being of its distressed citizens. hayat says, “Every state government should have some funds allocated to victims who are in the need of shelter, counselling, medical or financial aid. In recent times, the Nirbhaya Fund was one such good initiative to help victims and their families in distress.”
Although no separate law for crime victims has yet been enacted in India, the silver lining is that victim justice has been rendered through affirmative action and orders of the supreme Court. In recent times, striking a balance between the accused and the victim, the apex court through a plethora of decisions attempted to restore the dignity of the victim and to heal the wounds sustained by the victim. however, it took the Nirbhaya incident to come to a realization that the rights of the victim should be enforced.
send your feedback to: firstname.lastname@example.org
A crime victim or a complainant in India is only a witness for the prosecution whereas the accused has been bestowed with many rights... the victim has no right to protect his or her interests during criminal proceedings.
Parvez Hayat, aDG, Bureau of Police research & Development