Criminal Victimization and Justice Administration in India

Simran Kaur Kohli[1]

The trauma of victimization can have a profound and devastating impact as it diminishes the victim’s sense of self-esteem and control.  It can alter the victim’s view of the world as a just place and leave victims with new and difficult feelings of fear and distrust. Even individuals who are not direct victims of crime are negatively affected in a variety of ways, such as developing an increased fear of crime or perpetuating the feeling of suspicion. While primary victims of crime might be identified easily, secondary victims such as family members may not be so readily identifiable and may not receive needed attention.

In India, the criminal justice system is accused oriented. Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer expressed on plight of the victims, “The criminal law in India is not victim oriented and the suffering of the victim, often immeasurable is entirely overlooked in misplaced sympathy for the criminal. Though our modern criminal law is designed to punish as well as reform the criminals, yet it overlooks the by-product of crime i.e. the victims”.[2]

In India victims are believed to be marginalized entity in the entire criminal justice system. A close look at the Indian criminal system shows that it is more bent towards rights of accused at the expense of the rights of the victims. From the first stage when a complaint is registered against the accused to the stage of trial, fingers are pointed at the victim to justify the behavior of perpetrator. It can be very commonly seen when the character of rape victim is assassinated, there are so many people quick to blame the rape victim. Why do we point our fingers in wrong direction? Why are we so eager to blame victims?

By engaging in victim blaming attitudes, society allows the accused to avoid accountability for his action and victims suffer injustice silently. One thing to know is: victims are never at fault, perpetrators are always the ones at fault, never the other way around.

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Accused when found guilty are send to jail but the victim still suffers. The victim suffers mentally, physically and financially. According to justice Krishna Ayyar:

“It is a weakness of our jurisprudence that the victims of crime and the distress of the dependents of the prisoner do not attract the attention of law. Indeed, victim reparation is still the vanishing point of criminal law. This is a deficiency in the system which must be rectified by the Legislature.[3]

The Indian criminal justice system does not have separate law for victims of crime but the silver lining is that there are legal arrangements which deal with the plight of the victims.

  1. Passing of The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 is a major step towards protection of female crime victims. The frequency of violence and crime against women is well evident when pages of newspaper are turned. Serious efforts to change the traditional submissive and victimized role of women have been taken up by NGOs and the Government. Many concessions and tax rebates are provided for female students to encourage them in higher education and employment, and economic self-reliance.
  2. The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 is also an innovative law aiming to protect elders and prevent elder abuse and victimization, by creating obligation on the adult legal heirs to maintain their parents, or senior citizens above the age of 60 years.
  3.  Prevention of Child Abuse and Victim Protection act is an effort for prevention from abuse and victimization. To rehabilitate of juvenile victims, it is important to understand their mental conditions as well as their perspective regarding their problems and make a friendly and healthy environment around them so that they can feel safe and comfortable, willing to share their actual problem which makes the rehabilitation better.
  4. The Schedule Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 is an act to prevent atrocities against the members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Under this Act, compensation to victims is mandatory, besides several other reliefs depending on the type of atrocity.
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The amendments to the Cr. PC made in 2008 focused heavily on the rights of victims in a criminal trial. It introduced Section 357A under which even if the accused is not tried but the victim needs to be rehabilitated, the victim may request the State or District Legal Services Authority to award him compensation.

Justice is not only in the end result; it is also in the process.[4] These words spell out the true scope of the justice system. The justice system should not only punish the guilty but also inspire the confidence in the victims. The Indian Courts have played a pivotal role in emancipating rights of victims. In Ankush Shivaji Gaikwad v. State of Maharashtra[5], the Court said, “With modern concepts creating a distinction between civil and criminal law in which civil law provides for remedies to award compensation for private wrongs and the criminal law takes care of punishing the wrong doer, the legal position that emerged till recent times was that criminal law need not concern itself with compensation to the victims since compensation was a civil remedy that fell within the domain of the civil Courts. This conventional position has in recent times undergone a notable sea change, as society’s world over have increasingly felt that victims of the crimes were being neglected by the legislatures and the Courts alike.”

The brief review of the existing legal framework shows that there is a need to take a fresh look and understand the situation and position of victims of crimes. It cannot be denied that still some more rights are required.

[1] Student.

[2] V. R. Krishna Iyer: Access to Justice- A case of Basic change 14 (1991).

[3] Ratan Singh v. state of Punjab AIR 1980 SC 84.

[4] Justice Albie Sachs the Supreme Court of South Africa.

[5] Ankush Shivaji Gaikwad v. State of Maharashtra, (2013) 6 SCC 770.

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