A single-judge bench of the Calcutta High Court has taken strong objection against the West Bengal government not maintaining enough funds for ‘victim compensation’, which is mandatory under Section 357 (A) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1973.
A single-judge bench of Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya also directed the state finance department to file a report within six weeks listing the steps to be taken for ensuring that adequate funds reach the State Legal Services Authority (SLSA) within six weeks.
“The report shall indicate the funds which are proposed to be put in with SLSA within the time directed for dealing with the pending cases of victim compensation,” Bhattacharya said.
She passed the order after the final hearing in a case in which a victim of human trafficking complained about non-payment of compensation amount more than three years after the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) fixed her compensation amount at Rs 1,50,000.
SLSA’s counsel told the court that since the body does not have enough funds at its disposal, it is unable to pay the amount of Rs 1,50,000 to the petitioner.
While passing her order in this particular case, Bhattacharya also referred to a similar case of payment of ‘victim compensation’ in 2021, where SLSA submitted before the court that it had funds only of an amount of Rs 5,000 and was hence not in a position to disburse the victim compensation.
“This is a sorry state of affairs to say the least,” Bhattacharya observed.
Explaining the legal aspects of the victim compensation clause, the petitioner’s counsel Kaushik Gupta told IANS that Section 357A of CrPC, 1973 is a special provision for the victim compensation scheme which was brought into effect on December 30, 2009.
“Under the said provision, it is the duty of the state government in coordination with the Union government to prepare a scheme for providing funds for the purpose of compensation to the victim or his/her dependent who has suffered loss or injury as a result of some crime, requiring rehabilitation,” Gupta said.
He also said that the West Bengal Victim Compensation Scheme, 2017 as notified on February 15, 2017 reinforces in Clause 3 that the state government shall constitute a fund from which compensation will be paid to the victim.