HC: Sec. 357 A (4) CrPC. is substantive; hence compensation is to be given to victims of crimes committed before its enactment

In a landmark ruling Kerala High Court recently held that the provisions of Section 357A(1)(4) & (5) CrPC are substantive in nature, hence the victims have a right to receive compensation for the crimes that were committed before the provisions of the above stated section came into play.

Case of the Petitioner

The Senior government pleader contended that the direction given to the State Government to pay compensation to the victims under Section 357(4)(A) CrPC., for a crime that took place on 26.03.2008, taking into consideration the amended provision, bough into effect on 31.12.2009 and based on an application of the year 2013, is completely unjustifiable and is against the statutory provisions.

Furthermore it was contended by the State pleader that the application of the above stated section cannot be retrospective in nature, as the retrospective effect of the provision will make the State face the unwanted financial brunt and the same will result in intrusion with the economic set up of the State.

Case of the Respondents

Respondents 2 to 4 are the legal heirs of one late Sri. Sivadas who died in a motor vehicle accident that took place on 26.03.2008. Though the crime was taken into cognizance by the police, however the accused could not be found or traced and therefore the trial could not commence.

In 2013, the legal heirs approached to the District Legal Services Authority, Alappuzha, in the want of compensation from the State under Section 357A (4) CrPC. Thereafter an enquiry was done as per the provision under Section 357A (5) CrPC, and the report was submitted on 12.09.2013 on the basis of which it was inferred that an amount of Rs.3,03,000/- was suffice compensation to be awarded in the present case to the dependants of the late Sri Sivadas.

Observation of the Court

In the words of the Court:

“With the advent of the philosophy of victim compensation, with its avowed purpose not to award damages analogous to those in cases of tortuous liability, but to give solace, by way of compensation out of the public purse, for the injury sustained, whether the offender has been bought to the trial or not, a new stakeholder, in the criminal law was ushered in.”

“By giving the benefit to the victims under Section 357A (4) CrPC, for crimes that occurred prior to 31.12.2009, the statutory provision is not given retrospective effect, and instead a prospective benefit is given based on an antecedent fact.”

The Court vividly stated that the compensation that is to be awarded under Section 357 is punitive in nature and the compensation that is to be awarded under Section 357A is based on the concept of rehabilitation of the victim. The Court denied the submissions of the State pleader pertaining to amendment and stated that the amendment does not mention anything with respect to the applicability of the Section that the same should be retrospective prospective.

Notably, the Court said,

“When an application is made by a victim of a crime that occurred prior to the coming into force of Section357 (A)(4) CrPC., a prospective benefit is given, taking into reckoning an antecedent fact. Adopting such an interpretation does not make the statue or the provision retrospective in operation. It only confers prospective benefits, in certain cases, to even antecedent facts. The State will remain prospective in application but will draw life from a past event also.”

Case Details

Before: Kerala High Court

Case Title: District Collector Alappuzha and others

Coram: Hon’ble Mr. Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas

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