West Bengal Once Known For Its Progressive Feminist Discourse Now Lags In Almost All Areas Of Progress: High Court Directs Govt To Comply With NALSA’s 2018 Compensation Scheme
The Calcutta High Court directed the State of West Bengal to frame its compensation scheme as per NALSA’s Compensation Scheme for Women Victims/Survivors of Sexual Assault/Other Crimes, 2018, within eight weeks.
The Court modified the compensation granted to a minor acid attack victim from Rs 4.5 lakhs to Rs. 10.5 lakhs. The Court emphasized that the State of Bengal has neglected its roots and is falling behind in progress and governance, while it was once known for its progressive feminist discourse.
Justice Shekhar B. Saraf noted, “Mr. Gopal Krishna Gokhale, the prominent freedom fighter, had once said “what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow” – this saying was so relevant in the early 1900’s; however, the position today is antithetical and the State of West Bengal lags in almost all areas of progress and governance as well as following best practices that are mandated by the Supreme Court of India. It is unfortunate that this State, which was once known for its progressive feminist discourse, with women such as Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, Sarojini Naidu Chattopadhyay and many others, has forgotten its feminist roots. The State Government should take note of Bengal’s rich feminist history and ensure that Gokhale’s saying once again finds relevance in today’s time”.
Advocate Debashis Banerjee appeared for the Petitioner, and Advocate Soma Chowdhury appeared for the Respondent.
Petitioner no 1, a girl of 17 years and her brother, Petitioner no 2, a boy of 14, were assaulted by an acid attack. Per the existing rules, Petitioner no 1 was paid a sum of Rs.4,50,000/ as compensation. The Petitioner contended that per the Apex Court judgements and the NALSA's Compensation Scheme for Women Victims/Survivors of Sexual Assault/other Crimes, 2018, a minimum compensation of Rupees 7 to 8 lacs is payable, with an additional 50% of the said amount, on account of the victim being a minor girl child. Aggrieved by the grant amount, a Writ Petition was filed before the Court by Petitioner no 1.
The Court, while relying on the Supreme Court Judgment in the case of Nipun Saxena & anr. v Union of India & ors. [(2020) 18 SCC 499] reiterated that all States were instructed to adopt the best practices outlined in NALSA's Compensation Scheme for Women Victims/Survivors of Sexual Assault/other Crimes, 2018. The Court noted that the State Governments must include similar provisions following the Scheme. The Scheme specifies that victims of acid attacks resulting in facial disfigurement are entitled to compensation ranging from a minimum of Rs. 7 lakhs to a maximum of Rs. 8 lakhs. The Court noted that the scheme also states minors are eligible for compensation 50% higher than the specified minimum.
The Court directed the West Bengal government to act per the Supreme Court's Judgment and create a compensation scheme for women victims and survivors of sexual assault and other crimes. The Court held that the implementation following the scheme shall be completed within eight weeks.
Furthermore, the Court held that since the victim was a minor, she was entitled to a minimum compensation of Rs. 7,00,000. The Court noted that she was also entitled to an additional 50% of the minimum amount, or Rs. 3,50,000, since she was a minor girl. Therefore, the Court held that the total compensation payable to the victim is Rs. 10,50,000.
Accordingly, the Court disposed of the Writ Petition.
Cause Title: Paramita Bera & Anr. v. The Union of India & Ors.