Criminal Victimization and Justice Administration in India

Parvatham Shiva Kumar[1]

During 12th and 13th centuries, English society included only those acts as crimes which are committed against the State or religion. Murder was not a crime in English society whereas treason, blasphemy were treated as crime.[2] The Indian epics and authoritative sources such as Manu Smriti, Nyaya Mimansa and Kautilya’s Arthshastra contain exhaustive references to crime and criminals and criminal policy in early period of Hindu society.[3] The concept of Dharma comprises law, religion and morality, and was equally binding on all including the King. The king was expected to administer criminal justice with great care and caution and with utmost impartiality.[4]

The word ‘victim’ is defined under S.2 (wa) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.[5]The UN General Assembly Declaration of ‘Basic Principles of Justice for Victims and Abuse of Power’[6]contains an exhaustive definition of the term ‘victim of crime’ in Article 1.

Following are the rights of victims of crime:

  1. Right to Access to Justice and fair treatment
  2. Right to Restitution
  3. Right to Compensation
  4. Right to Assistance

According to Black’s Law dictionary 2nd Ed.[7] Defines victimization as unwarranted singly out of one person from a group and subjected to unfair treatment and other wrongs.

Victimization can be classified as primary victimization and secondary victimization. Primary victimization includes physical impact, financial impact and psychological impact.

Physical Impact

Hypertension, increased heart beats, numbness, grief, sadness etc. and it also includes physical injury.

Financial Impact

Costs and expenses incurred by the victim in treatment for physical injuries, damages, the litigation cost, financial suffering or employment loss and funeral or burial expenses, if any. 

Psychological Impact

It is the immediate reaction in the form of anger or far when the victim of confronted with crime perpetrator.

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More often, after suffering the primary victimization, the victims may be subjected to secondary victimization from tiresome Court proceedings.

Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer committee commenting on the deplorable condition of the unfortunate secondary victims of criminal justice system, observed that children of women prisoners lacked adequate child care and stated that their educational and recreational facilities were callously neglected. In some prisoners, children of 8-9 years were also living in the prison with their incarcerated mother due to absence of children home. The Supreme Court in R.D. Upadhyaya v. State of A.P.,[8] has issued certain guidelines to ensure the certain standards in regard to the children of women prisoners. 

In recent decades, the rehabilitative approaches in penology have given rise to emergence of the concept of restorative justice in India. The concept of restorative justice moves around four major themes, namely 

  1. Restoration- It implies help and support to the victim of crime and the victim is being restored to normal life in society by community’s restorative efforts.
  2.  Accountability– Accountability of the offender and acceptance of guilt by him had a soothing effect on the victim which facilitates overcoming trauma and distress caused due to his victimization. 
  3. Community protection– For victim, community’s protection and assistance helps the victim to return to normal life, by making forgetting the past and look for the bright future.
  4. Skill development- Competency of development programs constitutes a vital segment of the restorative justice system.

The UN has suggested establishment of formal or informal advisory groups to attend to the needs of victims. The groups will have understanding and knowledge of interest of crime victims. The adoption of the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice, for Victims of Power Abuse and Crime 1985,[9] made considerable progress in many Nations including India, in providing assistance to victims of crime.

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The Supreme Court of the United States recognized the rights of the victim of the crime for the first time in the case is Payne v. Tennessee,[10] at the sentencing stage of the trial. It marks the beginning of judicial recognition of the rights of the victim and needs for restorative justice for them.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Study (ABSS)[11] has concluded that victimization rates amongst people with mental and disability were more pronounced for the crimes of really, sexual offences and assault.

Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer while expressing his concern for the plight of the victims of crime commented that ” the Criminal law in India is not victim oriented and the suffering of victim, often immeasurable are entirely overlooked in misplaced sympathy for the Criminal. Though our modem criminal law is designed to punish as well as reform the Criminals, yet it overlooks the by-product of crime i.e. the victim.[12]

Justice V.Y. Chandrachud observed that a person is entitled to compensation for the loss or injury caused to him by the offence and it includes the wife, husband, parent and children of the deceased victim. [13]

The quantity of compensation must be reasonable depending upon the facts and circumstances, and also the justness of victim’s claim[14]  and this will become the new tool to mould the remedies for harm done to victims[15].

  1. Section 357 Order to pay compensation
  2. Section 357- A Victim Compensation Scheme
  3. The Probation of Offenders Act (1958), Section 5 & 4.
  4. Motor Vehicles Act, Section 5.

The question of award of compensation to a victim of rape came before the Supreme Court in the case Bodhisattva Gautam v. Subhra chakraborty. SC noted: “Rape is a crime against the entire society. It destroys the entire psychology of a woman and pushes her into deep emotional crisis. It is violative of the victims right to life, which includes right to live with dignity as contained in Article 21.”[16]

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The landmark case on victim’s compensatory relief, the Supreme Court, in D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal,[17] inter alia made the following observation:

“The monetary and pecuniary compensation is an appropriate and indeed an effective and sometimes perhaps the only suitable remedy for the redress of the established infringement of the fundamental right to life of a citizen by the public servants.”


[1] Student.

[2] Oppenhimer, Rationale of punishment.

[3] P.K., Penology, old & new 101-107 (1943).

[4] Manu cl. Ix. 311.

[5] The code of criminal procedure1973.

[6] The General Assembly, in its resolution 40/34 of. 29 November 1985, adopted theDeclaration of Basic Principles of JusticeforVictims of Crime and Abuse of Power.

[7] Henry Campbell black,black’s law dictionary (Second Edition, 1910).

[8] R.D. Upadhyaya v. State of A.P.,2006 (4) SCALE 336.

[9] Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims ofCrime andAbuseofPower A/RES/40/34 (29 Nov.1985).

[10] Payne v. Tennessee 501 U.S. 908 (1991).

[11] The Australian Bureau of Statistics Study (December 5, 2019), https://www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/facts-and-figures/statistics.

[12] V.R. Krishna Iyer, Access to justice – a case of basic change 14, (1991).

[13] Rudal Shah v. State of Bihar AIR 1983 SC 1086.

[14] Sarwan Singh v. State of Punjab AIR 2000 SC 362.

[15] Nilabati Behera v. State of Orissa 1993 2 SCC 746.

[16] Gautam v. Subhra Chakraborty, AIR 1996 SC 922.

[17] D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal, AIR 1997 SC 610.