NATIONAL LEGAL RESEARCH DESK
The right to life, which includes the right to live with dignity, is guaranteed to every person under the Constitution of India. The inherent dignity of the human being and the right of protection from any form of violence against women also forms part of India’s international obligations under instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Further, the UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, 1985 recognizes the need to respect the dignity of the victim and their entitlement to prompt redress for the harm suffered through access to the criminal justice system, reparation and support services to assist their recovery.
Rape is one of the most violent forms of crimes against women, which not only impacts her bodily integrity but in the long-run, impairs her capacity to develop meaningful personal and social relationships, and affects her life and livelihood. The victim of rape suffers mental and psychological trauma, which must be addressed so that she is able to lead a dignified and meaningful life. While it is essential to provide punishment to the perpetrators of such heinous crimes, the victim must be restored to a position of dignity and self-confidence. It is this principle of restorative justice that must form the basis of efforts to address the trauma that the affected woman goes through and may entail compensation in the form of financial assistance as well as various support services such as counseling, shelter, medical and legal aid. In doing so, the pain, suffering and shock, as well as loss of earnings due to pregnancy occurring as a result of rape and allied expenses would need to be given due consideration.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court in Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum Vs. Union of India and others writ petition (CRL) No.362/93 had directed the National Commission for Women to evolve a “scheme so as to wipe out the tears of unfortunate victims of rape’’. The Supreme Court observed that having regard to the Directive Principles contained in Article 38(1) of the Constitution, it was necessary to set up a Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, as rape victims besides the mental anguish, frequently incur substantial financial loss and in some cases are too traumatized to continue in employment. The National Crime Records Bureau data shows that the incidence of rape in the country is increasing. A total of 21,467 cases of rape were reported in 2008 alone, which constituted an increase of 3.5% over the previous year. Under Section 357 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC), courts can award compensation to victims of crimes, including rape. In 2009, a new Section 357A was introduced in the CrPC which casts a responsibility on the State Governments to formulate Schemes for compensation of victims of crime in coordination with the Central Government.
In this background, a Scheme for providing restorative justice to victims of rape through financial assistance as well as support services has been formulated. While no amount of financial assistance can adequately compensate for the injury, both physical and emotional, faced by a victim of rape, this Scheme is an attempt to provide a helping hand to enable her to cope with the trauma suffered and to tide over her immediate and long-term needs.
The process of formulation of the Scheme was initiated by the National Commission for Women in 1995. Thereafter, this issue was considered by the competent authority in the Government, which in 2005 provided detailed guidelines for preparing a Plan Scheme to disburse compensation to the victims of rape. It inter alia, recommended providing interim and final compensation to the victim, setting up of district level committees and a Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. Keeping in view these guidelines, the Scheme was redrafted.