Global Context

Victimization and inaccessible justice have been global problems since ages, which hardly come to fore and not enough recognized by the mainstream society. Each year with crime incidences, untold number of individuals, families, and communities get shattered in no time without their own fault. And accurately measuring the breadth and depth of this global problem is a tremendous challenge. To add to this, the reporting methods and crime definitions differ from country to country. However efforts have been made to build perspective on this scenario with various International Crime Victimization Surveys and allied surveys. That helps us to understand that millions of people throughout the world suffer harm as a result of crime and violence every year and are in need of help. (Leary M., 2006)  To be more specific, here are some facts presented by various sources:

  • The website for World Justice Challenge 2019 mentions that, “more than 5 billion people have unmet justice needs globally. This justice gap includes people who cannot obtain justice for everyday problems and people who face systematic exclusion from the law. According to research conducted by the World Justice Project, more than 50% of people around the world have experienced a legal problem in the past two years alone, and justice systems are failing them.”
  • The World Health Organization reported in 2002 that: 
    • Violence is among the leading causes of death worldwide for people aged 15 to 44.
    • In some countries, nearly one in four women may experience sexual violence by an intimate partner and up to one-third of adolescent girls report their first sexual experience as being forced.
    • Reliable data on elder abuse is scarce, especially among developing countries, but studies conducted in developed countries indicate that from four to six percent of older people are subjected to physical, psychological and financial abuse, and neglect. (Leary M., 2006)

Global Progress in Supporting Victim of Crime

United Nations has been raising up this issue since 1985 and has been taking efforts to improve status of victim and access to justice and rights worldwide by declaring basic principles, victim rights, structure of mechanisms for implementation of the rights and thus setting one uniform essential framework to create victim restorative space, that countries are following in their own way. Rights and services for crime victims vary considerably from country to country, but on the whole, we have made important progress throughout the world. For example:

  • In South Africa, programs have been developed to educate men about domestic violence;
  • In New Zealand, law enforcement in some areas responds with social workers to domestic violence calls; and
  • In Brazil, police stations are being staffed entirely by women to provide services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault — a practice that is being replicated in Japan and Costa Rica.

Some countries allow victims to review evidence, ask questions during the trial, be represented by an attorney at the country’s expense, and even appeal the decision of a prosecutor not to file their case. A few countries provide victims with an ombudsman to help ensure enforcement of their rights.

With further advancement and enhancement in understandings of the justice delivery systems worldwide and their services, such as ‘trauma informed care’, ‘restorative justice’, usage of ‘victim impact statement’, we feel the need to match up to this global progress and grow even further; however the first realistic goal is to be able to provide at least the basic victim’s rights declared by the United Nations as given below:

  • Access to justice and fair treatment
  • Restitution
  • Compensation
  • Assistance
  • Victims of abuse of power

Indian Context

DISHA has identified that the Indian Criminal Justice System even though was devised to protect rights of innocents and punish the guilty; takes hardly any cognizance of the victim’s redress, and especially the victim’s rights that should be in place to support victim to restore holistically to a normal life of dignity, peace and hope. As a result of this the victim gets further victimized (secondary victimization) due to deprivation from rights, stigmatization in society and isolation in absence of support system. 

We believe, this all happens because victim and victim’s rights were never recognized, adopted and channelized by creating necessary frameworks in systems. Even now there is no mention and definition of ‘victim’ and ‘victim’s rights’ in the constitution. Though there have been some guidelines on ‘rights of accused’ coming through some landmark judgments, the System has not gone much ahead when it comes to victim’s rights and rehabilitation.

So far the system has basically come up with framework for right of compensation and information. This in the form of mentioning definition of victim in CrPC and their right of compensation through a state level victim compensation scheme, adhering to section 357A. This amendment needs awareness and implementation to really improve status of victims while we still have various committee reports and recommendations to bring into framework.

  • The 154th Law Commission report in its recommendations mentions that the police should be trained to interact with victim in sensitive and sympathetic manner and also mention the losses suffered by the victim in investigation process, which should be then taken forward by the prosecutor in terms of restitution and compensation. The victims should be provided with authentic information at every step in police station and court and should have right to ask for review by competent authority on a specific court decision or right to institute private proceedings.     
  • The Malimath Committee report in its recommendations mentions that the victim should have:
    • The right to participate in the criminal trial by being allowed to i) produce evidence ii) ask questions of the witnesses iii) be informed of case status iv) be heard in relation to bail and prosecution withdrawal v) be able to move the court to pursue further investigation and vi) advance arguments after submission of the prosecution arguments.
    • The right to an advocate, which will be provided by the State if the victim cannot afford it.
    • The right to appeal against the lenient sentencing, acquittal or inadequate compensation.
    • The right to legal services including medical and psychiatric help, interim compensation and protection from secondary victimization.
    • The right to be impleaded as a party and to have voluntary organizations to implead as a party in criminal proceedings.
  • The Manohar Singh vs Rajasthan High Court case law mentions the power given to the courts in sub-section ‘1’ and ‘3’ of the section 357 A in CrPC to give compensation orders as part of restitution or even without that. This case law further says that the power to award compensation by court is not ancillary to other sentences but in addition thereto. Therefore courts have a duty to apply its mind to the question of awarding compensation to victim under section 357A irrespective of other sentences.
  • There are other various case laws like Sakshi Vs Union of India (In Camera Proceedings), Mallikarjun Kodagalli Vs State of Karnataka (appeal against acquittal, Information about victim protective provision) Lalita Kumari Vs Government of UP (Difficulties in FIR) helping to set uniform code of conduct for victim rehabilitation.

So far the victim has following core rights

  • The right to attend criminal justice proceedings;
  • The right to apply for compensation;
  • The right to be heard and participate in criminal justice proceedings;
  • The right to be informed of proceedings and events in the criminal justice process, of legal rights and remedies, and of available services;
  • The right to protection from intimidation and harassment;
  • The right to restitution from the offender;
  • The right to prompt return of personal property seized as evidence;
  • The right to a speedy trial; and
  • The right to enforcement of these rights.

And there are schemes / provisions to formulate schemes by States to provide at least monitory compensation to the victim; in Maharashtra we have Maharashtra Victim Compensation Scheme, Manodhairya Yojana and VCS 18.

On concluding note, they say, “Justice delayed is Justice denied” but we want to say that ‘rehabilitative’ justice is not destination of a process, it’s the process itself. By supporting victim from the very first step we can truly achieve rehabilitation of victim.

Consequences of crime on victim

Physical Impact
●  Physical Injuries
●  Other medical emergencies
●  Permanent Disabilities
●  Sleep Disorders
●  Eating Disorders
● Sexual Dysfunction
● Possible risk of Sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy
Emotional / Psychological Harm● Shock, loss of trust
● Feeling of unreality, numbness, out of control, vulnerability
● Confusion
● Helplessness
● Shame, Guilt and Fear
● Anger, rage, intense sorrow or grief
Impact on Mental Health● Post Trauma Stress Disorder
● Anxiety disorder
● Depression
● Suicide ideation
● Panic Symptoms
● Inability to concentrate
● Preoccupation with crime
● Avoidance of things associated with crime
● Increased risk of drug abuse
● Being hyper-vigilant, concerns about personal safety
Financial Impacts● Medical bills
● Personal belongings damaged, destroyed or stolen
● Loss of employment
● Loss of wages due to
o Incapacitation
o Taking time off from work to repair damage
o Participating in the criminal proceedings
o Seeking medical or rehabilitative treatment
● Relocation expenses
● Funeral and burial expenses
● Care of dependents
● Costs for rehabilitative / restorative equipment for e.g. wheelchair.
Spiritual Harm● Distrust or anger against God/fate
● Hyper or increased engagement in religious practices
● Engagement in superstitions
● Acceptance of suffering as a punishment for sins did in this life and past life
● Acceptance of suffering as being part of God’s will
Impact on social relations● Withdrawal
● Isolation
● Stigma
● Blame
● Intrusive Sympathy by others
● Invasive frequent discussions by others about the crime or gossiping
● Non-acceptance, avoidance by the society
● Difficulty in finding partner for marriage for rape victims
Impacts on family● End of personal relationships or turbulence in them
● Financial crisis due to loss of earning individual
● Disruptions in the education of children
● Constant tussles within family about decision making
● Fight within family for property related issues or custody of children or personal belongings
● Early burden of family responsibility on some members
● Being misguided by some family members or close relatives
● Abandonment, disowning by family members
● Separation within family members due to rehabilitative steps such as sending children to residential schools, hostel or children home, elders to other relatives / shelter homes
● Birth of new-born in unwanted pregnancy due to sexual exploitation.