In December 2019, Delhi High Court expressed grave concern over misuse of victim compensation fund, which is provided to rape victims. The court ordered reopening of cases where compensation was paid, despite allegations not found to be true. Subsequently, bench comprising of Justice R K Gauba issued certain guidelines to prevent “grossly irresponsible use of public funds”.
According to Justice Gauba, he had seen more than a dozen cases in just one year (2017), wherein the victims were awarded lakhs under ‘compensation to the “survivors”’, despite the fact that the accused were acquitted after the trial or even discharged where courts concluded that no offense had been committed.
Dealing with the current case, where the man was convicted by trial court for raping his niece, the high court said:
The criminal appeal assailing conviction on a charge of rape, not withstanding the testimony of the prosecutrix (victim), conceding the relationship to be consensual, had led to the revelation of a pattern of irresponsible exercise of jurisdiction vi-a-vis victim compensation scheme necessitating measures to be taken so as to curb misuse of public money.
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The court also added,
This should be a wake-up call for the possibility of abuse of the compensation fund to be plugged by suitable amendments to the Delhi Victim Compensation Scheme, 2018.
The court further expressed:
Lest the prevalent practices in the criminal courts of Delhi, as illustrated by numerous instances quoted above, de-generate into a well-entrenched financial scam, corrective measures need to be adopted with a sense of urgency.
Till date, no action has been initiated by DSLSA (legal services authority) for recovery of compensation from the wrong-doers or from persons who may have wrongfully received such benefits.
Noting further the bench said:
Since the data which has come up before this court is limited to one year (2017), and out of the total 247 cases in which interim compensation was paid in that year by the DSLSA, only 72 have reportedly reached some conclusive stage (till the time of compilation of data), what may have revealed itself as gross abuse may be only tip of an iceberg.
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Justice Gauba also said that he was surprised to witness that no action was taken regardless numerous cases where alleged survivors walked away with lakhs in compensation.
In its detailed judgment, the bench spoke about five such cases wherein charges of rape were involved, each levelled by an adult woman. All accused had to face trial for ‘sex on the pretext of marriage’ accusations.
As stated by the judge, shockingly all these cases resulted in acquittal of accused men, wherein the courts concluded that “physical intimacy was consensual.” However, the court observed, no matter what the result was, the compensation still had been released and availed by the woman complainants, stating:
The possibility of false claims of compensation being brought under the cover of trumped-up charges of the commission of a crime cannot be ruled out.
The court reminded Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) about the provisions of the compensation scheme that the recovery of money is granted under the statute itself, and important measures should be taken to get back the public funds.
While the above has been a welcome step by Delhi High Court, the courts must also have strict conviction for women who dare to misuse laws and extort public money. Unless there is fear of punishment, some women will keep repeating the offence again and again.