Observing that special courts can award compensation of more than Rs 10.5 lakh to victims of child sexual abuse, the Delhi High Court Thursday directed a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to be paid to a minor girl for the mental trauma and bodily injury endured by her as a result of sexual assault.
The court was deciding on an appeal of the mother of a minor girl challenging a trial court order that had sentenced the accused to 12 years’ rigorous imprisonment, but awarded a compensation of only Rs 50,000 to the girl, who was seven at the time of the crime.
A single judge bench of Justice Jasmeet Singh observed that the trial court did not disclose the “judicial parameters” applied or give any “reasons” while awarding the compensation to the child who was found to be a victim of penetrative sexual assault under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO).
For POCSO cases, the survivor is also entitled to a compensation of Rs 7 lakh + 50% of Rs 7 lakh i.e., Rs 10.5 lakh which is to be awarded by the special court and to be disbursed by Delhi State Legal Services Authority, the court observed.
The court held that the final compensation should not be less than Rs 10.5 lakh. It said that the special court will be within their rights and within Pocso to adjudicate and grant compensation for more than Rs 10.5 lakh. The court also held that the special court shall decide the final compensation amount.
“For the aforesaid reasons, the award of compensation of Rs 50,000 for mental trauma and bodily injury is highly insufficient and cannot be sustained and is set aside… I am of the view that this is the case where the child is to be rehabilitated. She is in need of maximum compensation under the scheme and the act and it is therefore directed that the respondent shall pay Rs 10 lakh (10.5 lakh less Rs 50,000 if already paid), in terms of schedule II within 4 weeks of passing of this order,” the court held.
The HC observed that the Delhi Victim Compensation (DVC) scheme provides for a maximum and minimum compensation. “The court has the power to scale up and scale down. To scale down these provisions would mean injustice to the survivors who have suffered. These are the situations which require scaling up. For instance, the compensation for ― rape in the schedule has been provided as Rs 7 lakh maximum… I am of the view that purposive interpretation and beneficial legislation requires the said sum of Rs 7 lakh to be considered as a minimum base while adjudicating compensation in POCSO cases,” the court noted.
On the interim compensation the court referred to the provisions of POCSO and held, “A sustained reading of the POCSO Rules along with the objectives of POCSO makes it clear that compensation is to be given as soon as the special court forms an opinion that the child has suffered loss or injury…Thus, I am of the opinion that the interim compensation is to be paid at the earliest. Although no time frame has been given but in my understanding 2 months within filing of charge sheet to disburse interim compensation would be reasonable.”
Justice Jasmeet Singh, in a 45-page judgment, looked at the impact of the abuse on child sexual abuse (CSA) survivors, including the trauma they faced, which may bring about long-lasting negative impact on their mental health, and the victimisation.
The court observed that it is imperative that the survivors and their rehabilitation are not overlooked. “There is duty cast on the state to protect their rights and deliver justice to the survivors. This justice, in the form of compensation, should be given its liberal meaning thereby giving the maximum benefit and as quickly as possible,” the court said.
On the manner in which compensation is to be awarded in cases of sexual violence, the court observed that since sexual violence derails the life of the survivor, it is important that the compensation must aid in getting the life of the survivor back on track. Adequate assistance to the survivor can go a long way in socially and psychologically empowering the survivor.
“In my considered view to assess the maximum quantum of compensation, special courts must depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case, the nature of the crime, the justness of the claim and the capacity of the accused to pay,” the court noted.
The court said that the special court must try to award 25 per cent of the compensation at the interim stage within two months of filing of chargesheet as the DVC scheme contemplates 25 per cent compensation. The court further held that special courts are within their rights to award compensation in excess of 25 per cent at the interim stage as well.
“The POCSO is passed to ameliorate the suffering of the survivors. Hence, the endeavour must be to award the maximum compensation possible and the special court, after forming a preliminary opinion on perusing the chargesheet, will grant compensation,” the court observed.