Victim Centric Criminal Justice

Namita Raje[1]

Being a victim is involuntary. Being a survivor is mandatory. -Ricardo Wiggs[2]

Our criminal justice system with its tiger’s claw waiting to grab the perpetrator often loses sight of the victim’s plight whose stake is of utmost importance. It lacks the measures to provide medical, psychological and social support mechanisms for the victims.Rehabilitation provisions have little or no mention in our statutes.

However much to our satisfaction recently we have had some amendments in our laws that attempt to address the victim’s concern in a better manner. But their focus seems limited to the financial needs of the victims.

There is a need to lay down a set of lucid guidelines in order to ensure that victim gets the practical support, protection that he can legitimately expect from a judicial system which stands for the sole purpose of bestowing justice upon him. This would ensure that the victim doesn’t feel alienated from the system itself.

Research conducted in order to opt for appropriate control measures so as to lower down the rate of crime revealed that improved relationship between citizens and authorities goes a long way in achieving the objective. The more satisfaction a victim derives, the healthier the relationship between citizens and authority. Several crimes go unreported when citizens are not treated properly by the police authorities.[3] Co-operation on part of citizens is sine qua non for public administration. Satisfied victims would lead to a happy citizenry and consequently to a co-operative and responsible component of the society that is law abiding.

Victim empowerment schemes would be in furtherance of the spirit of our Constitution envisaged in the preamble as “social justice”.

Laying our imaginations further, victim empowerment would also be in conformity with fundamental rights as provided in the Constitution as they would protect the life and liberty of an individual and would provide for equal protection by laws.

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Literature recognizes four types of needs of victim viz. emotional, financial, practical and informational needs. While stress has already been laid on the financial needs of the victims the other three deserve an equal attention as well.

Dissatisfied victims may on purpose report high levels of emotional distress in protest against the outcome of the criminal proceedings.[4]

Information is one of the top three drivers of satisfaction for public service users[5] and that a lack of contact between victims and authorities is often perceived as a lack of action.[6]Informational needs are especially important keeping in mind the Indian population, majority of which is comprised of marginalized sections of people, badly lacking the awareness about their rights.

In India the state is made party in criminal cases emphasizing the spirit that when a crime is committed in the society, the state itself is aggrieved and that it is the state’s responsibility to promote harmony in the society.

As per the recommendations of the Law Commission of India[7] now there are special provisions for child victims and victims of sexual offences.[8] The recently proposed victim compensation scheme is also a welcome step in this regard.

Honourable Supreme Court, in the case of Hari Singh v. Sukhbir Singh[9], stated that “courts’ power to award compensation was intended to do something to reassure the victim that he or she is not forgotten in the criminal justice system”. 

Certain new provisions that have been inserted pertain to provisions for compensating the victims even if accused could not be identified if the victim is identified[10]. Recently provision for providing compensation through legal services authorities has also found a mention in the Code of Criminal Procedure.[11] There has been imposition of ban on character assassination of victims of sexual assault.

No doubt, much has been done for the satisfaction of victims in the criminal justice system, still certain areas cry for attention. Till now we don’t have a provision to address the trauma of the victim through state funded mental health counselling services. In spite of presence of institutions such as the legal services authorities at district, state and national levels, victims, particularly those who belong to the marginalized section of the society are unable to catch up with the court proceedings and lack awareness of other basic rights they are entitled to. Our provisions seem silent on the question of prevention of further victimization and intimidation of the victim.

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Some noteworthy solutions that can be adopted to bring about a change in the existing situation include:

  1. Establishing victim support centres in each district comprising of experts in the field of law, medicine and psychology.
  2. Timely revising the minimum compensation amount that is to be provided to the victim in case of offences. Keeping them in consonance with the consumer price index can also be opted for.
  3. Encouraging victims to attend the trial proceedings and to keep themselves up-to-date with the investigation process.
  4. Conducting periodic legal awareness programmes aimed at prevention of victimization in each district.
  5. Utilizing vertical prosecution[12]
  6. Introducing a victim surcharge that is imposed on offenders to help the programmes and services meant to assist the victims.[13]
  7. Inclusion of a victim impact statement would provide the victims with a sense of participation in the process and would help the adjudicating authority to have a holistic view of the impacts on the victim.

In conclusion in can be observed that, legislators have focused on victims’ needs especially in the last decade. But it is crucial to examine as to how far such provisions have come into practice. The fact that victim satisfaction has beneficial impacts on the society as a whole can’t be ignored. As such the areas that are still outside the purview of legislators need to be given due attention. A centralized institution that provides for all the services has a special importance for the marginalized victims who are not in a position to otherwise opt for those specialized services. The proposed solutions if acted upon would certainly go a long way in achieving the object of victim satisfaction.

[1] Student.

[2] Victim of Violence and guest speaker at 1999 IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police) Summit on Victims of Crime, 1999.

[3] Wemmers, J. Victims in the Criminal Justice System (Amsterdam: Kugler Publications, 1996),

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[4] Kunst, M., Popelier, L. and Varekemp, E., Victim Satisfaction with the Criminal Justice System and Emotional Recovery A Systematic and Critical Review of the Literature. (2014)

[5] Cabinet Office, The Office of Public Services Reform (2004), The Drivers of Satisfaction with Public Services.

[6] Audit Commission (2003), Victims and Witnesses – providing better support 35.

[7] Law Commission of India (1996). 154th Report on the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Ministry of state for Law and Justice 57-65.

[8] The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.

[9] Hari Singh v. Sukhbir Singh [1988] 4 SCC 551.

[10] The Code of Criminal procedure, 1973, Section 357A.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Vertical prosecution, refers to the situation where the prosecutor who is initially assigned a case after arraignment will handle all investigation, interviewing, plea-bargaining, trials, or appeals that may occur with that case.

[13] Making The Criminal Justice System More Responsive To Victims, (2018),