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Supreme Court compensation order on Bilkis Bano case

Supreme Court compensation order on Bilkis Bano case

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  • GS 2 || Governance & Social Justice || Vulnerable Sections || Religious Minorities

Why in news?

  • The Supreme Court ordered the Gujarat government to pay 2002 communal riots victim Bilkis Yakoob Rasool Bano 50 lakh as compensation, a government job and housing in the area of her choice.

Case

  • 2002 Gujarat riots: During the 2002 Gujarat riots, a group of rioters had raped her as well as two other women, and killed seven members of her family at Randhikpur village on March 3, 2002.
  • The court noted that she had the misfortune of witnessing her daughter being smashed against a wall, as well as the devastation suffered by her family.
  • She was also pregnant at the time of the incident.
  • Further, the court was told that she was leading an itinerant, hand-to-mouth existence.
  • Bano’s case is indeed a rare one:
    • Criminal prosecution resulted in conviction and life sentences to 11 persons.
    • The sentences were upheld by the Bombay High Court.
    • Further, the court found deliberate inaction on the part of some police officers and that the autopsies were perfunctory and manipulated.
    • In short, this is a concrete instance of state inaction and negligence that would normally justify the payment of a hefty compensation.
  • Not every crime would have a similar set of circumstances. While convictions are not easy to come by in cases of mob violence, victim compensation may often be the only way to ensure some justice.

Supreme Court order

  • Compensation: In ordering the Gujarat government to pay 50 lakh to Bilkis Yakoob Rasool Bano the Supreme Court has endeavoured to achieve restitutive justice.
    • handing over the fine amounts paid by the accused as part of their sentence is one aspect of such justice;
    • another aspect is for the court to ask the government to compensate the victim from its own coffers.
  • It is in these circumstances that the Bench awarded her 50 lakh, besides asking the State government to provide her with a government job and a house.
  • The Supreme Court has asked for the pension benefits of three police officers to be withdrawn.
  • Compensation to victims is a relatively less recognised component of criminal justice.
  • In a system that focusses mainly on the accused, an order of compensation is a recognition of the state’s obligation to victims of crime, especially horrific acts.

Legal mechanism

  • Section 357A: The Code of Criminal Procedure was amended in 2008 to insert Section 357A under which every State government has to prepare a scheme to set up a fund from which compensation can be paid to victims of crime and their dependants who have suffered loss and injury and who may require rehabilitation.
  • Central Victim Compensation Fund: The Centre has a Central Victim Compensation Fund.
  • NALSA: On Supreme Court directions, the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has prepared a compensation scheme for women victims and survivors of sexual assault and other crimes.
  • Many States have notified schemes on these lines.
  • While on paper there is a mechanism to assess rehabilitation needs and pay compensation, there is a need to streamline the schemes and ensure that the compensation process is not done in an ad hoc manner, but is based on sound principles.

Additional info

NALSA

  • The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987
    • to provide free Legal Services to the weaker sections of the society and
    • to organize Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes.
  • Centre: NALSA is located at New Delhi.
  • State: In every State, State Legal Services Authority has been constituted –
    • to give effect to the policies and directions of the NALSA and
    • to give free legal services to the people and
    • conduct Lok Adalats in the State.
    • The State Legal Services Authority is headed by Hon’ble the Chief Justice of the respective High Court who is the Patron-in-Chief of the State Legal Services Authority.
  • District: In every District, District Legal Services Authority has been constituted to implement Legal Services Programmes in the District.
    • The District Legal Services Authority is situated in the District Courts Complex in every District and chaired by the District Judge of the respective district.

Mains question

  • Compensation to victims is a relatively less recognised component of criminal justice. Discuss.