Order of sentence in a criminal case needs due application of mind. The Court has to give attention not only to the nature of crime, prescribed sentence, mitigating and aggravating circumstances to strike just balance in needs of society and fairness to the accused, but also to keep in mind the need to give justice to the victim of crime.
In an appeal preferred by the complainant against the acquittal of the accused persons of offences other than Section 323 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and grant of probation to them by setting aside the sentence of imprisonment imposed by the trial Court, the Court dealt with the issue of awarding compensation in criminal trials to the victim.
In the instant matter the accused were tried on the allegations that they assaulted and caused injuries to victim with a view to disturb the possession of the complainant party on the agricultural land in question. The trial Court convicted the accused person. On appeal, the Court of Sessions set aside the conviction for offences other than the one under Section 323 IPC while maintaining the conviction under Section 323. The sentence of imprisonment was also set aside and the accused were granted probation subject to fine to be paid to the victim.
The Court held that the Court of Sessions and the High Court did not focus on the need to compensate the victim which can now be taken to be integral to just sentencing. Order of sentence in a criminal case needs due application of mind. The Court has to give attention not only to the nature of crime, prescribed sentence, mitigating and aggravating circumstances to strike just balance in needs of society and fairness to the accused, but also to keep in mind the need to give justice to the victim of crime. In spite of legislative changes and decisions of the Apex Court, this aspect at times escapes attention. Rehabilitating victim is as important as punishing the accused. Victim’s plight cannot be ignored even when a crime goes unpunished for want of adequate evidence.
Just compensation to the victim has to be fixed having regard to the medical and other expenses, pain and suffering, loss of earning and other relevant factors. While punishment to the accused is one aspect, determination of just compensation to the victim is the other. At times, evidence is not available in this regard. Some guess work in such a situation is inevitable. Compensation is payable under Section 357 and 357-A. While under section 357, financial capacity of the accused has to be kept in mind, Section 357-A under which compensation comes out of State funds, has to be invoked to make up the requirement of just compensation.
Section 357 confers a power coupled with a duty on the courts to apply its mind to the question of awarding compensation in every criminal case. The victim would remain forgotten in the criminal justice system if despite the legislature having gone so far as to enact specific provisions relating to victim compensation, courts choose to ignore the provisions altogether and do not even apply their mind to the question of compensation. Unless Section 357 is read to confer an obligation on the courts to apply their mind to the question of compensation, it would defeat the very object behind the introduction of the provision.
[Manohar Singh vs. State of Rajasthan and Ors.]