Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Calcutta High Court disposes of PIL seeking CBI probe into Nadia district minor rape, death

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The Calcutta High Court disposed of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking transfer of investigation into the rape and death of a 14-year-old girl in Nadia District of West Bengal to the CBI.

The Court by order dated April 12, 2022 had directed the investigation by the CBI. Thereafter, progress reports were filed from time to time. The Court had noted in the proceedings of August 2, 2022 that the investigation was over and a chargesheet was filed on July 8, 2022. The Court found that so far as the issue of investigation was concerned, nothing further was required to be done and the matter was kept pending for consideration.

An application has been filed by the petitioner with a prayer to grant interim compensation to the family and the victim girl to the tune of Rs 1 crore.

Counsel for the petitioner submitted that Rs 1 crore interim compensation is required to be given under four different heads which are disclosed in that paragraph. He submitted that the Court should exercise the power and grant interim compensation. He submitted that in terms of order 8 rule 3 of the CPC read with rule 53 of the Calcutta High Court Appellate Side Rules, the pleadings are deemed to be admitted and accordingly compensation should be awarded.

Advocate General S.N. Mookherjee opposed the application and said that interim compensation to the satisfaction of the parents of the victim girl has already been paid and, therefore, nothing further is required to be done on the prayer of the PIL petitioner. He submitted that this is not a forum for seeking interim compensation. He has also submitted that plea taken in the application has not been verified to be true to personal knowledge. He has further submitted that the NLSA Scheme, 2018 in respect of award of compensation exists which is applicable in the State in view of the judgment of the Supreme Court in the matter of Nupur Saxena and Another vs. Union of India and Others reported in (2020) 18 SCC 499 and that the order of awarding interim compensation is not under challenge.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj held that undisputedly, the Criminal Injury Compensation Board comprising of the District and Sessions Judge, Nadia, Chief Medical Officer of Health, Nadia, Additional District Magistrate (General), Nadia, Additional Superintendent of Police, Ranaghat and representatives of the CBI, has considered the issue of interim compensation in its meeting of May 5, 2022 and after taking note of the circumstances of the case has found it sufficient to award Rs 5 lakh as interim compensation to the parents of the victim for the death and rape of their daughter. The minutes of the meeting of the Board record that the parents were satisfied with the quantum of compensation. The parents have not come forward disputing the same or claiming a higher amount of interim compensation.

Under Section 357 of the CrPC, the trial court is empowered to award compensation on conclusion of trial. Section 357A of the CrPC provides for victim compensation scheme and sub-section 3 thereof empowers the trial court, at the conclusion of trial, to make recommendation for compensation.

During the course of argument, NLSA’s Compensation Scheme for Women Victims/Survivors of Sexual Assault/other Crimes – 2018 has been placed on record by the High Court. In the matter of Nupur Saxena (supra), Supreme Court has considered the Scheme prepared by NLSA and has expressed that it should be implemented by all the State Governments and Union Territories administrations. Nothing has been pointed out to show that the interim compensation awarded is not in terms of the Scheme.

So far as the judgment in the matter of Suresh and Another vs. State of Haryana reported in (2015) 2 SCC 227 relied upon by the counsel for the applicant is concerned, that was a case where the issue of compensation had come up while deciding the appeal against the conviction and sentence. In the present case, the trial is yet to take place and therefore, benefit of the said judgment cannot be extended to the applicant. The counsel for the applicant has also placed reliance upon the Single Bench judgment of the High Court in the matter of Piyali Dutta vs. The State of West Bengal & Ors. reported in 2017 SCC OnLine Cal 8743 but the issue involved therein was entirely different in respect of the applicability of Section 357A of the Cr.P.C. and West Bengal Victim Compensation Scheme, 2017 and the Victim Compensation Scheme, 2012 as acid incident therein had happened in 2005 much prior to that. Hence, that judgment has no application in the facts of the present case.

Further the Court noted that the decision of the Criminal Injury Compensation Board is not under challenge in the application.

In the above circumstances, the Court found no ground to accept the prayer for grant of interim compensation of Rs 1 crore or to interfere in the order of the Criminal Justice Compensation Board.

The Court clarified that this order will not affect the right of the affected parties to claim compensation and award of final compensation by the competent Court in appropriate proceedings.

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