The Ministry of Home Affairs has issued guidelines for the Central Victim Compensation Fund (CVCF), aimed at encouraging the states to seriously implement the victim compensation schemes. These guidelines are a result of the directions of the Supreme Court in a PIL relating to acid attack victims.
After the infamous acid attack on her, Laxmi, a survivor filed a PIL in the Supreme Court in 2006 on various issues related to Acid Attack victims. The Supreme Court in its final order delivered in April this year, directed the State Governments to strictly follow the laid down procedure for granting compensation to the victims. It also directed the Union Government to fix the minimum compensation at Rs 3 lakh. Subsequent to this PIL, the Ministry of Home Affairs held consultations with various state governments & UTs and proposed setting up of a ‘Central Victim Compensation Fund’ (CVCF) that includes compensation to acid attack victims. The MHA has now issued detailed Guidelines of this scheme.
The CrPC Amendment in 2008
The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) was amended in 2008 and a new section 357A was introduced. The crux of the amendment was that the state governments come up with a compensation scheme for the victim or his dependents who have suffered loss or injury as a result of the crime and who require rehabilitation.
Following this amendment and the subsequent directions of the Supreme Court in the Acid Attack PIL, states have come up with a Victim Compensation scheme. There were wide variations from one state to another in the amount of compensation. The current central scheme is aimed at harmonizing the state schemes with a minimum fixed amount of compensation for victims of various crimes.
The CVCF Guidelines
The CVCF Guidelines mention three broad objectives namely
- To support & supplement the existing victim compensation schemes of the state governments
- To reduce the disparity in the quantum of compensation amount fixed by various state governments
- To encourage the state governments to effectively implement the compensation schemes and continue financial support to victims of various crimes
The CVCF is setup with an initial corpus of Rs 200 crore that would be sanctioned from the Nirbhaya fund. The fund also is open to contribution from public.
How can states access the funds from CVCF?
To encourage the states to effectively implement their victim compensation schemes, the central government has agreed to reimburse the amount of compensation paid by the state governments. But for the states to access funds from CVCF, the following must be done.
- The states must notify a victim compensation scheme as per the provisions of the Sec 357A of CrPC
- The quantum of compensation fixed should not be less than the amount mentioned in CVCF
- The States must pay the compensation first from their budgetary resources to eligible victims and then seek reimbursement from CVCF
- Details of the every victim compensated must be maintained electronically in the CCTNS module.
The following minimum amount of compensation is fixed by the MHA and states must also fix a similar minimum if they are to take the benefit of CVCF.
Who is eligible for award of Compensation?
State governments are authorized to come up with eligibility criteria and the process. Broadly, states have come up with the following eligibility criteria.
- The offender is not traced or identified, but the victim is identified, and where no trial takes place, such victim may apply for grant of compensation
- The victim/claimant reports the crime to the officer-in-charge of the police station or any senior police officer or Executive or Judicial Magistrate of the area within 48 hours of the occurrence.
- The offender is traced or identified, and where trial has taken place, the victim/claimant has co-operated with the police during the investigation and trial of the case;
- The victim/claimant shall co-operate with the police and prosecution during the investigation and trial of the case;
- The income of the family should not exceed Rs.4.5 lakh per annum
- The crime on account of which the compensation to be paid should have been occurred within the territorial Jurisdiction of the relevant State.
Some of the above criteria could vary from state to state.
The procedure for Grant of Compensation
The relevant state schemes also lay down the procedure to be followed for the grant of compensation
- Whenever a recommendation is made by the Court or an application is made by any victim or his dependent to the District Legal Services Authority, the District Legal Services Authority shall examine the case and verify the contents of the claim with regard to the loss or injury caused to victim and arising out of the reported criminal activity and may call for any other relevant information necessary in order to determine genuineness of the claim. After verifying the claim and by conducting due enquiry, the District Legal Services Authority shall award compensation within two months.
- The District Legal Services Authority shall decide the quantum of compensation to be awarded to the victim or his dependents on the basis of loss caused to the victim, medical expenses to be incurred on treatment, minimum sustenance amount required for rehabilitation including such incidental charges such as funeral expenses etc. The compensation may vary from case to case depending on facts of each case.
- The State/District Legal Services Authority shall take into consideration the trauma undergone by a Victim of Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking (VOCSET) and the aspects of rehabilitation, reintegration and restoration of the VOCSET.
- The cases covered under Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 wherein the compensation is awarded by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal are not covered under this Scheme.
- The District Legal Services Authority, to alleviate the suffering of the victim, may order for immediate first aid facility or medical benefits to be made available free of cost.
- The amount of compensation should be in line with what is defined in the guidelines
Will the CVCF help?
States might be more interested in implementing the victim compensation scheme, now that the union government will reimburse the compensation amount. This is expected to encourage states and also to harmonize differences in the quantum of compensation. For e.g., the Victim compensation scheme of Andhra Pradesh, notified in April 2015 fixed the compensation for a rape victim at Rs 2 lakh while the CVCF guidelines fixed the minimum compensation at Rs 3 lakh. Such differences are expected to be sorted out with CVCF. Only time will tell if states would actually make use of the scheme.