The Author of this blog is Dr. Gazal GuptaAssociate Professor & Associate Dean, School of Law, Galgotias University, U.P.

Interaction with the criminal justice system of the country is the most dejected and bitter experiences of victims of crime. Many a times victims of crime do not report their ordeal to the police or the investigative agencies. The reason behind the silence of not calling the police or not complaining or lodging the FIR is the element of suspicion, distrust and the apathetic attitude of the police administration towards victims of crime. Some victims fear that the police may not take their matter seriously and will ignore their issues. Others are of the opinion that if once an entry made in the criminal justice system it is very tough to take a step back, even if a victim wants to. The main reason for such a mind set is that the victims feel insecure and unsafe once the criminal justice mechanism gets into motion. There are not enough laws and procedures in the criminal justice administration to protect the victims and witnesses of crime in the country. The stress towards victims rights which though given by the law goes in vain when it comes to actually provided and bringing them to practice. The first agency to whom the victim comes into contact is the police and they being in uniforms do not win the confidence and victims are scared to communicate with them and stay away as hiding from an offender or a criminal. Apart from that, proper legal assistance is also not easily available to the victims of crime especially those who belong to the poor and downtrodden class. 

The jurisprudence of victim’s rights or victim’s justice perspective has gained importance in the recent past. Basically, a victim sets the criminal justice administration into motion, but once the action is taken by the victim of crime, he/ she gets neglected or is set aside, and the State comes into play on behalf of the victims. The Indian judiciary has played a very significant and emphatic role in the development of our criminal justice system. Though the Indian judiciary has made a lot of efforts in the area of human rights by promoting several rights through their judgments, yet there is one field which has been touched by the judiciary but nevertheless explored widely. That particular area is the rights of victims of crime.

Personal safety, especially security of life, liberty and property, is of great importance to any individual. Peace keeping and maintenance of law and order is extremely essential in any society, for the human beings to live peacefully and amicably in any society without any fear of damage to the property or injury to their lives. This possible in states where there is effective and strong implementation of the penal laws. Therefore, the chief objective of the criminal law is to protect and safeguard the public of the state by all means and to maintain peace and order in the society.[1]

 Thus, the criminal law consists of both the substantive as well as the procedural law. The previous one defines the offences and prescribes punishments for the same while the latter one, administers the substantive law carrying the due process of law. In the absence of the procedural criminal law, the substantive law does not hold any value and is mere a piece of paper, because the enforcement force behind the substantive law is the procedural criminal law of the country which brings the plea of a victim to the adjudicatory body. The procedural law defines the process to be carried out for the administration of criminal justice. The Indian criminal justice system is governed overall by four laws:

1.    The Constitution of India, 1950

2.    The Indian Penal Code, 1860

3.    The Code of Criminal Procedure of India, 1973

4.    The Indian Evidence Act, 1872

The object of the criminal justice administration is to secure the rights and privileges of people against the deliberate interruption of offenders who encroach the essential tenets and controls of the general public and of the state. The criminal equity frame work is basically an instrument of social control: society thinks of some practices so perilous and dangerous that it either entirely controls their event or outlaws them outright. It is the task of the justice providing agencies to keep these practices by catching, arresting and rebuffing transgressors or preventing their future incidences. In spite of the fact that society keeps up different types of social control, for example, the family, school, religion, culture, ethics; they are intended to manage morals in the society rather than maintain law and order and prevention of crime. It is only the criminal justice administration that apprehends, detain and punish the criminals and offenders.[2]

The victim of criminal offence is overlooked many times and gets forgotten in the criminal justice system. The consideration has essentially and dependably been on the guilty party and the offence and not on the victim of crime. By the beginning of the twentieth century, it can be seen that the position of crime victim in the criminal justice system was insignificant. They played a role mainly in reporting the crime to the police administration and there was negligible legislative and government provision for compensation. The victim of crime held a place of almost utter negligence for years but they have now been acknowledged as a person worthy of consideration across the world.[3]

International and National Perspective

The First International Symposia on Victimology centered, for the first time, particularly on victims, in Israel in 1973 and along these promoted the foundation of the World Society of Victimology in 1979. The European Convention on the Compensation of Victims of Violent Crimes was embraced by the Council of Europe in 1983, the proposal on the position of the victims inside the structure of criminal law and system in 1985, and the suggestion on help to victims and the counteractive action of exploitation and victimization in 1987. The United Nations Basic Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power was embraced in 1985. The global community accordingly, tried valiant endeavours to perceive and legitimise the rights and privileges of the victims of crime at the grandest of platforms.[4]

   The United Nations Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victim of Crime and Abuse of Power, 1985 defined ‘victim’ under Article 1 as:

1.    “Victims mean persons who, individually or collectively, have suffered harm, including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights, through acts or omissions that are in violation of criminal laws operative with Member States, including those laws prescribing criminal abuse of power.

2.    A person may be considered a victim, under this Declaration, regardless of whether the perpetrator is identified, apprehended, prosecuted or convicted and regardless of the familial relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. The term ‘victim also includes, where appropriate, the immediate family or dependents of the direct victim and persons who have suffered harm in intervening to assist victims in distress or to prevent victimization.”[5]

According to Quinney: “The victim is a conception of reality as well as an object of events. All parties involved in sequence of actions construct the reality of the situation. And in the larger social contracts, we all engage in common sense construction of the crime, the criminal, and the victims” The Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 2008, added clause ‘wa’ to the principal Code which says, “victim” means “a person who has suffered any loss or injury caused by reason of the act or omission for which the accused person has been charged and the expression victim includes his or her guardian or legal heir”.[6] Therefore, a victim is a person who has suffered some sort of loss or injury caused by the act or omission of the accused person.

Human rights are of the paramount consideration in the administration of the criminal justice. India is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 and has also ratified the two covenants i.e., The International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights and The International Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Constitution of India, 1950 guarantees human rights under Part III, i.e., Fundamental Rights. The Directive Principles of State Policy provides for the guidelines as to effectively implement the fundamental rights. The decisions of the Supreme Court have given strength to the provisions of the Constitution through its wide interpretation of various Articles enshrined in the Constitution under Fundamental rights specially Article 21.

Judicial activism has brought a wider concept of human rights and legal rights as a mark of respect to fair justice. Under Article 21 Supreme Court has announced many judgments which have expanded the meaning of right to live and personal liberty. Article 21 has been interpreted in sense of right against torture, cruel or inhuman treatment or punishment, right to bail, right to speedy trial, free legal services, right against solitary confinement, immunity from indignity in custodial institutions, right to privacy, rights of under trials, right to fair wages etc. Right to damages, or right to compensation is another form of judicial activism to interpret article 21 where it has been provided to victims of custodial deaths/ violence, victims of crimes, be it rape, murder, riots or other kinds of crimes. The Apex Court has not only widely interpreted Article 21 but Article 32 has also been given wide interpretation. There are innumerable cases coming under article 32 which are related to compensation or damages to the victims of crime, victims of state irregularities or violence by state.

The provision of legal aid is there in the Constitution of India itself which clearly lays down under Article 39-A that, “The State shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunity, and shall, in particular, provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.”[7] Despite this Article, and provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 like Section 304 which lies down:-

     “Legal aid to accused at State expense in certain cases –

(1)  Where, in a trial before the Court of Session, the accused is not represented by a pleader, and where it appears to the Court that the accused has not sufficient means to engage a pleader; the Court shall assign a pleader for his defence at the expense of the State.

(2)  The High Court may, with the previous approval of the State Government, make rules providing for – (a) the mode of selecting pleaders for defence under subsection(1); (b) the facilities to be allowed to such pleaders by the Courts; (c) the fees payable to such pleaders by the Government, and generally, for carrying out the purposes of sub-section (1).

(3)  The State Government may, by notification, direct that as from such date as may be specified in the notification, the provisions of sub-sections (1) and (2) shall apply in relation to any class of trials before other courts in the State as they apply in relation to trials before Courts of Sessions.”[8]

Across the globe, victims of crime are protected, assisted, restituted and compensated by appropriate laws. But in India the victims of crime play only an insignificant role in the criminal justice process. The Criminal Law, law enforcement agencies, court procedures and the administration of criminal justice are almost exclusively focused upon the offender. When an offence is reported to the law enforcing authorities, they look for an offender. They arrest an offender or a suspected offender. The law enforcing authorities investigate victim only as means of finding the offender and securing criminal prosecution against him/her. The offender is held for court action and brought to trial; the victim is a witness for the state against the offender. The convicted offender may be sentenced to fine or imprisonment or placed on probation of good conduct, or he may be pardoned by the state. In the whole episode, the victim is kept aside and left at his/her own fortune without proper remedies. Criminal Law seems to be concerned mainly to make an offender to pay his debt to society. Perhaps it is more important to make him pay his debts to those whom he has injured.

Provisions in Criminal Law

In recent times, among the many reforms framed for improving the criminal justice system is the one that advocates a victim-orientation to criminal justice administration. Victim-orientation incorporates more prominent regard and thought towards victims and their rights in the investigative and prosecution process, provisions for greater choices to victims in trial and disposition of the accused, and a scheme of reparation/compensation particularly for victims of violent crimes. Though there are some provisions under the Indian Constitution and some sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 2973 to protect the rights of the victims and for providing compensation, the criminal courts at the lower level in India have ignored those provisions for a long time and not utilized them during their sentencing processes. 

When it comes to the proceedings of the courts the victims of crime often go helpless and defenceless due to which the prosecution is also not in a position and are helpless to provide justice to them. These results in the justice delayed and denied though there are provisions in law to help such victims of crime. Under Section 357 of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 court is empowered to impose a sentence of fine or a sentence of which fine forms a part, in its discretion, ordering the payment of compensation out of the fine recovered, to a person for any loss or injury caused to him/her by the offence, along with the sentence of imprisonment including a sentence of death. The trial court is authorised under section 357(1) of Cr.P.C to impose fines, to direct that the fine recovered be paid as compensation to the victim of the crime. Where fine is not imposed as part of conviction by the court it may further direct the accused to pay compensation to the victim though such provisions are provided in the penal laws the lower courts do not frequently resort to these. In addition to the conviction the court may order the payment of compensation to the victim who has suffered by the action of the accused but this power is not an ancillary to other sentences and is in addition thereto. But due to ignorance or inconsideration towards the victims of crime such practises are rarely invoked by criminal judicial system. It was a step forward in the direction of justice delivering system by giving the victims of crimes their one basic right of compensation, which the court has the power to restore or rehabilitate the victim through compensation and to reassure that he/she is not forgotten or left behind in the process of getting fair justice.

Through the judicial activism the higher judiciary in India has taken a step forward in the direction of victim justice movement. In the case of State of Punjab v. Gurmit Singh[9] Ahmadi J. observed,

 “A prosecutrix of a sex offence cannot be put on par with an accomplice. She is in fact a victim of the crime. The Evidence Act nowhere says that her evidence cannot be accepted unless it is corroborated in material particulars. She is undoubtedly a competent witness under section 118 and her evidence must receive the same weight as is attached to an injured in cases of physical violence. The same degree of care and caution must attach in the evaluation of her evidence as in the case of an injured complainant or witness and no more. What is necessary is that the court must be alive to and conscious of the fact that it is dealing with the evidence of a person who is interested in the outcome of the charge levelled by her. If the court keeps this in mind and feels satisfied that it can act on the evidence of the prosecutrix, there is no rule of law or practice incorporated in the Evidence Act similar to illustration (b) to section 114 which requires it to look for corroboration.

If for some reason the court is hesitant to place implicit reliance on the testimony of the prosecutrix it may look for evidence which may lend assurance to her testimony short of corroboration required in the case of an accomplice. The nature of evidence required to lend assurance to the testimony of the prosecutrix must necessarily depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. But if a prosecutrix is an adult and of full understanding the court is entitled to base a conviction of her evidence unless the same is shown to be infirm and not trustworthy. If the totality of the circumstances appearing on the record of the case disclose that the prosecutrix does not have a strong motive to falsely involve the person charged, the court should ordinarily have no hesitation in accepting her evidence.”

In 2004, The Supreme Court concerning over the plight of the victims of child sexual abuse gave certain guidelines with regard to their physical and mental wellbeing. Since, such abuse has a tormenting and horrible effect on the child, the court was very much empathetic towards the issue.[10] In Thekkamalai v. State of Tamil Nadu[11], the victim, raped by a police officer, approached the court through a writ petition for the payment of fair and reasonable amount of compensation. During the pendency of the case the accused was convicted and sentenced to ten years imprisonment. The Madras High Court directed,

“Rape is a crime not only against the person of a woman; it is a crime against the entire society. It destroys the entire psychology of a woman and pushes her into deep emotional crisis. Rape is therefore the most hated crime. It is a crime against basic human tights and is violative of the victims most cherished right, namely, right to life which includes right to live with human dignity contained in Article 21. We find considerable substance in the submissions of learned counsel for the appellant. Where a heinous crime of rape committed by the police personnel, who are public functionaries, the matter clearly relates to the violation of basic human rights as well as Fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution and the victim would be entitled to a fair and reasonable compensation. It is resorted that the concerned Sub Inspector was convicted by the trial court under Sections 366, 376(2)(a)(i), 384 and 342 of I.P.C. and sentenced to suffer rigorous imprisonment for ten years and to pay fine amount.

The trial court also directed the accused to pay Rs. 2,00,000/- and Rs. 50,000/- as compensation to Lakshmi and Thekkamalai respectively. In the appeal filed by the Sub Inspector of Police, the conviction under Sections 366 and 376(2)(a)(i)of I.P.C. as well as the payment of Rs. 2,00,000/- as compensation to the victim Lakshmi was confirmed by this Court. It appears that the amount of compensation has not been paid by the accused, who is presently behind the bars.

In our opinion, the ends of justice would be served if the amount of compensation is enhanced from Rs. 75,000/- to Rs.5,00,000/-. It is brought to our notice that pursuant to the order passed by the learned single Judge a sum of Rs. 85,000/- (Rs. 75,000/- towards interim compensation and Rs. 10,000/- towards rehabilitative measures) has already been paid to the victims Lakshmi and her husband Thekkamalai. We, therefore, direct the State Government to pay the balance amount of Rs. 4,15,00/- (Rupees Four Lakhs Fifteen Thousand only), with simple interest at the rate of six (6) percent per annum from the date of the order of the learned single Judge till date of payment, within a period of eight weeks from today. Out of the total amount i.e. Rs. 4,15,000/- plus interest accrued on the said amount, a sum of Rs. 5,00,000/- (Rupees Five Lakhs only) shall be invested in the name of Lakshmi in a fixed deposit, initially for a period of three years, with Tamil Nadu Power Finance Corporation and she would be entitled to receive the interest accrues  on such deposit once in three months. The remaining amount shall be released to the appellant and his wife Lakshmi jointly. State is at liberty to take steps to recover the amount of compensation so paid to the victims from the concerned delinquent police personnel by taking appropriate steps in accordance with law.”

In Hari Shankar v. Sukhbir Singh,[12] the Supreme Court directed the trial court should exercise the power of awarding compensation to the victims of the crime under Section 357(3) of the Cr.P.C. liberally, so as to meet the ends of justice in a better way. In Mangilal v. State of M.P[13] the Supreme Court dealt with the scope of Section 357 (3) of Cr.P.C in detail. The court observed,

“The power of the court to award compensation to the victims under Section 357 is not ancillary to other sentences but is in addition thereto. Section 357 (1) deals with a situation when a court imposes a fine or a sentence (including sentence of death) of which fine also forms a part. It confers discretion on the court to order as to how the whole or any part of fine recovered is to be applied. If no fine is imposed, Section 357 (1) has no application. The basic difference between sub-section (1) and (3) of Section 357 is that in the former case, the imposition of fine is the basic and essential requirement; while in the latter even the absence thereof empowers the court to direct payment of compensation. Such power is available to be exercised by an appellate court or by the High Court or Court of Sessions when exercising revisional powers”.

In Ratan Singh v. State of Punjab[14] the Court said, “It is a weakness of our jurisprudence the victims of the crime, and the distress of the dependents of the prisoner, do not attract the attention of the law. Indeed, victim reparation is still the vanishing point of our criminal law!”


It is heartening to observe that several judgments in both the High Courts and the Supreme Court in the last two decades or so have come to the rescue of the victims of not only traditional crimes where the offender is another citizen but also in cases where the victimization has been caused by the instrumentalities of the state itself. In addition to the existing provisions under the Indian Criminal Law, a considerable importance was given in the Report of the Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System, headed by Justice V.S. Malimath on the need to provide justice to victims of crime. But, at the same it disheartening that the lower court has not given much space to broaden the term victim, to elaborately define victims of crime and to clearly establish the types of victims of crimes

[1] P.S.A. Pillai, Criminal Law 1 (Lexis, Nexis, Butterworths, New Delhi, 6th edn., 2006).

[2] Mohd Abdul Karim and Mohd Erum Parvez Khan, “Right to Compensation of Victim Crime, Victimization and Victomology in Bangladesh Perespective” 22(7) IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science 81(2017), ( last viewed 09-02-2020)

[3] “Analysis of the Concept of Victimology under the Indian Legal System”, (last viewed  09-02-2020)

[4] Pamela Davies, Peter Francies and Chris Greer (et al) Victims, Crime and Society: An Introduction 83-84 (Sage Publications, 2nd edn., 2017)

[5] Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, 1985.

[6]Section 2 (wa) Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 2008 at 35.

[7] The Constitution of India, 1950 at 22.

[8] The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 at 172.

[9] 1996 SCC (2) 384.

[10] Sakshi v. Union of India Supp (2) SCR 723.

[11] 2006 WLR 13 (DB).

[12] AIR 1988 SC 2127.

[13] 2004 (1) SCALE 42.

[14] 1976 SCC (4) 719.


  1. A very well researched article. Victim compensation should not only be monetary but should also include rehabilitation of the victim.


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