Delhi HC Directs DSLSA To Seek Compensation For Sexual Offence Victims In Cases Registered Between 2012-17
The Delhi High Court recently directed the Delhi State Legal Services Authority to seek compensation on behalf of the victims of sexual offences cases registered between 2012-2017 and clarified that no limitation with respect to time for filing such applications in disposed of cases.
The Bench of Justice Jasmeet Singh observed that Delhi Victims' Compensation Scheme (DVCS)-2018 could not be invoked in a hyper-technical manner to defeat the rights of the victim for whose assistance and support the entire Scheme had been formulated.
"Hence, to obviate the possibility of the victim's right to compensation being fettered or curtailed on the technical plea of limitation alone, I deem it fit to clarify that there will be no requirement to file a separate application for condonation of delay in seeking compensation." clarified the Court.
Herein, the attempt was made by DSLSA to develop a mechanism for filing applications for compensation on behalf of victims of sexual offences in disposed-of cases. Two issues were raised-
- Concerning the privacy and confidentiality of the victims - the Concerned Judges/ Ahlmads/ Record Room In-charges may not permit fresh counsels to inspect the judicial records, since they were not representing the victims during the pendency of the case.
With respect to this, Advocate Ajay Verma as well as Harshita Mishra, Secretary (Litigation), DSLSA apprised the Court of the fact that Advocate Prabhsahay Kaur, for Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) had graciously offered to provide team of counsels for file inspection (in collaboration with Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation) as DSLSA found itself in a conundrum regarding payment of fees for inspection in disposed of cases to the empaneled lawyers of DSLSA and that BTFs (Brief Transmission Forms)/ entrustment letters/ authorization letters could be issued in favour of the counsels of BBA for the specific purpose of inspecting records of disposed of cases.
It was also submitted that they would be specially sensitized about the need to maintain confidentiality of the matter and respect for privacy of the sexual assault survivor.
The Court directed the Principal District and Sessions Judges to further direct the concerned Judges/ Ahlmads / Record Room In-charge to identify and trace out the files of the disposed of POCSO cases/ Rape cases/ other sexual offence cases expeditiously and to further permit inspection by the Lawyers provided by BBA, so that the records could be inspected and appropriate applications for compensation could be filed at the earliest.
The Court further said that "Needless to say that these lawyers shall be sensitized with regard to maintaining the confidentiality and respect for privacy of the victim while inspecting records and making reports as proposed."
- Concerning the limitation period fo filing compensation applications– that many Courts/ District Victim Compensation Committees (DVCCs) may not entertain applications for compensation in cases where trial was concluded more than 3 years back.
As the period of limitation, under Clause 16 of the Part II of the Delhi Victims' Compensation Scheme- 2018 for filing compensation application, was 3 years from the date of offence or conclusion of trial, the Court observed that no limitation for filing an application for compensation was provided under Section 357(A) of the Cr.PC or Section 33 of the POCSO Act.
The Court further observed that the limitation would not come in the way of moving application for compensation in disposed of cases and that "The concerned DVCC/ Special Court shall read Clause 16 of Part-II of DVCS- 2018 liberally and entertain applications for compensation and thereafter, decide the same on merits"
The Court further directed the DSLSA to start moving the applications at the earliest and also directed the Delhi Police and Directorate of Prosecution to provide all necessary assistance to DSLSA so that the latter can meaningfully and effectively perform the task of moving applications for compensation on behalf of the victims of sexual offences, in the cases registered between 2012- 2017.
Accordingly, the direction was issued and March 2, 2023, was fixed as next date of the hearing.
Cause Title- Manish v. State