The creation of laws and regulations in a society is critical for promoting peace and harmony and protecting individuals from becoming victims of crime. The word “victim” is broad enough to include the immediate kin or dependents of the direct victims of the crime, as well as others who have been harmed or injured while supporting victims in distress or preventing victimization.Human rights are prevalent in all societies and have been recognized on a global scale. Individuals in India have fundamental rights guaranteed by the country’s constitution, which has its roots in human rights. Law and order are established in a country to promote peace and harmony, to punish offenders, and to protect innocent people from becoming prey to criminals. However, there is no society in which crime does not occur, as a result of which the law must be continually updated and enhanced to meet the nation’s new eventualities.The goal of any procedural legislation and the criminal justice system is to promote the goals of justice and guarantee that the accused receives a complete and fair trial in accordance with natural justice.
For many decades, the criminal justice systems have ignored and failed to recognize the significance of victims in an offense. Prior to the introduction of the world’s official criminal justice system, victims of crime received more desirable justice since criminals were always required to recompense or make payments in accordance to the amount of harm or injury caused to the victims. It was a “Golden Age” for the victims, with harsh penalties and substantial compensation enforced even on chopping down particular plants and animals, which was deemed a dreadful offense.However, with the advancement of the’state’ and the responsibility to maintain peace, harmony, and stability, as well as to protect citizens from the onslaught of crime, a major paradigm shift emerged in which victims began to be the forgotten person and justice was gradually meant to exhibit the guilt of the accused and punish the offender if the guilt was proven, because the accused is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.The subject of victimology was founded by Benjamin Mendelsohn and Hans Von Hentig, who emigrated to America from Germany in 1940.Victimology is a science that focuses on the “victim of an offense” and tries to get a thorough knowledge of the victim-offender connection, victim’s role in crime causation, and so on, in other words, it is the study of crime from the victim’s perspective.Various monuments and acts were created throughout India at the same time to meet the needs of the victims.
The Victim-centered rights and safeguards can be found in a wide range of criminal justice systems. In the United States, the Crime Victims’ Rights Act grants victims certain rights and safeguards. These include the right to be protected from the accused, the right to participate in the escape or release of the accused, the right to be treated fairly and with respect, and so on.The Victims Bill of Protections Act, 2015, establishes legislative rights for victims in Canada. Various legal decisions in India have prepared the ground for the emergence of this idea. Victimology was inspired by the liberal interpretation of the Indian constitution’s fundamental rights. Human rights have an impact on these essential rights. In the case of Rattan Singh v. State of Punjab, Krishna Iyer J. noted, “In truth, victim restitution is still the vanishing point of our criminal law.” This is the system’s shortcoming, which the lawmakers must address.” In Sakshi v. Union of India, the Supreme Court ruled that proceedings be held in private, particularly where the victim is a minor or a rape victim, to safeguard their honor and dignity.In another case, Nirmal Singh Kahlon v. State of Punjab, the Supreme Court held that the right to a fair investigation and trial extends to both the accused and the victim, and that such a right to a victim is guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. It established that victims have an equal right to a fair investigation.In the case of a sexual offense, the court with power to give compensation may also award interim compensation. Hussainara Khatoon & Ors v. Home Secretary, Official of Bihar acknowledged victimization as a result of state power abuse. The case felt the need to address and correct such significant violations of basic human rights, which directly breached the fundamental right to live with dignity guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution.
It is abundantly obvious that legislations, court rulings, and revisions to the Cr.P.C. have altered the scope of India’s criminal justice system. Despite the fact that the system, along with the judges, has played a critical part in the growth of victim’s rights in our nation, victims are not given the weightage and importance they need. Several rulings of both High Courts and the Supreme Court over the last two decades have saved victims of not only classic crimes, but also of victimization implanted by the state’s own instruments.
In the recent infamous case of Nirbhaya gang rape, the prisoners were condemned to death, and the execution occurred after a 7-year wait. For the last seven years, the victims’ parents havebeen fighting for justice. Despite the fact that the verdict was in favor of the victim and her family, the burning concerns are if justice was served?, what about legal help to the family?, what about the numerous court appearances, insults, and character assassination by the defense counsel and society?, and so on. The current state of the Indian legal system is aptly summarized by Gladstone’s adage, “justice delayed is justice denied.” The number of ongoing cases and crime rates are continually increasing, resulting in an increase in the plights of victims. A victim is defined as not just the individual who has experienced a loss or damage, but also their dependents. Our legal system is heavily biased in favour of the accused, which means that victims are frequently overlooked. Even before the execution of the death sentence, the accused has the opportunity to file a compassion plea and a curative appeal. The Delhi Gang Rape Case is a prime illustration of this. The courts must have been ‘constrained’ by existing rules, but punishment for the perpetrators should not be postponed when the country’s highest court has affirmed the accused’s hanging.Legal aid and other victim-assistance programs are almost non-existent. Though there are some provisions in the Indian Constitution and portions in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 that try to safeguard victims’ rights and provide compensation and restitution, criminal courts at the lowest level in India have long ignored those laws.The victims are the most important and integral aspect of the crime. As a result, the phenomena of crime cannot be examined thoroughly unless the victim of a crime is included. Victim’s rights may thus only be successful as human rights if they meet the two conditions of conferring entitlement and imposing responsibility on the people.
The notion of ‘victimology’ is gaining traction, and India must give it fair consideration by catering to the plights of victims and assisting the study of victimology to develop and operate smoothly. Despite the fact that numerous laws and rules are currently in place in our criminal justice system, further reforms are needed. It is critical to aid victims of crime since victims have endured irreversible losses and harm as a result of a crime. Changes such as appropriate application of numerous established laws, active engagement of victims in various stages of case proceedings, and a distinct umbrella legislation solely focused on victims are required for victims to get prompt justice.
The author is 4th Year B.A. LLB (Hons. in Criminal Law)