Inability to pay victim compensation, a sorry state of affairs: HC

by mcdix

A human trafficking survivor who was awarded damages of ₹1.5 lahks in December 2019 approached the Court of Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya for a payment of money. The Supreme Court of Calcutta has described the inability of the State Legal Services Authority (SLSA) and the government of West Bengal to pay compensation to victims as a deplorable condition that should not continue indefinitely. The Court has instructed the SLSA, the Secretary of State, and the Ministry of Finance of the Government of West Bengal to report within six weeks of the date on the proposed steps to ensure that adequate funds were made available. Justice Bhattacharya said in the June 20 order that the report should indicate the funds proposed to be allocated to the SLSA.

“This court has found in other cases of a similar nature that the SLSA is not provided with the means to compensate victims. In a similar case of 2021, SLSA filed before this court that it had only an amount of Rs. 5,000/- and was, therefore, unable to compensate victims. To say the least, this is a sad state of affairs,” the order said. “This State of affairs certainly cannot continue indefinitely… The State or the SLSA cannot take the position that they have no money to pay the victims to reimburse.”

The Court pointed out that victims who have suffered loss or injury or any form of physical or mental pain have been brought under the Code of Criminal Procedure scope for a particular purpose. The Code of Criminal Procedure and the Notice published by the State in 2017 oblige the State Government not only to prepare a separate budget for the compensation of victims but also to establish a fund with the specific terminology “Victim Compensation Fund” for those in need of rehabilitation, the order said.

victim compensation

Activists welcome order

Activists and survivors have welcomed the order of the Supreme Court of Calcutta. “There are several human trafficking survivors in the State who have received victim compensation, but the money has not yet been transferred to them because SLSA doesn’t have enough money to do it. In August 2019, a group of 27 survivors from Parganas North and South 24 districts had also written a letter to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to help expedite the process,” Tafteesh said in a press statement.

Tafteesh is a platform for researchers, lawyers, psychologists, journalists, and survivors working against human trafficking from all over India. Kaushik Gupta, a lawyer with the Calcutta Supreme Court, said the order would benefit all victims of human trafficking. Mr. Gupta, who is a member of Tafteesh, said it was the legal responsibility of the State to provide funds to compensate victims and that many such victims had not received compensation. Between April 2016 and March 2022, SLSA awarded prizes to 587 victims of sexual assault, human trafficking, and acid attacks, among others, under the West Bengal Victim Compensation Scheme, 2017. Over the six years, SLSA has paid out ₹15.81 crore to the victims. And their families.

You may also like