Victimology and Emerging Trends of Compensation

By Gurratan Wander, RGNUL and Harsimrat Kaur, Army Institute of Law, Mohali

Editor’s Note: More often than not, most discourses pertaining to criminal law, or the commission of mass crimes involve the element of criminology, and the principles of criminal law, including basic concepts such as mens rea or actus reus. However, it is imperative that a discourse on victimology and compensatory jurisprudence be initiated and maintained, as the one of the biggest stakeholders in the criminal justice system are the victims. This paper seeks to examine the concept of victims and victimology and trace the trends of compensatory jurisprudence in India.

“The history of crime and punishment in the whole civilized world reveals a steadily increasing concern with the treatment of criminal and a virtual blackout of attention to the situations of the victim” [i]

HISTORIC EVOLTUION IN VICTIMOLOGY

In ancient period, criminal law was victim oriented and they enjoyed the dominant position in entire criminal legal system with certain short comings. Even certain trees and animals were considered sacred and cutting and killing them were considered heinous sin and criminal had to pay heavy compensation and undergo rigorous punishment. That’s why Stephen Schafer calls it ‘Golden Age’ of victims.

Subsequently in 16th and 17th century, with the advent of the industrial revolution, renaissance and French revolution, a sea change was noticed in every walk of life’s. This gave birth to ‘Adversarial System’. This was the period, in Stephen Scafer’s terminology, of decline in victim’s role in ‘criminal justice system’. Now the criminal law became offender oriented and the suffering of victim, often immeasurable, were entirely overlooked in misplaced sympathy for the criminal. The victim became the forgotten men of our criminal justice system.[ii]

It was in 20th century, after the close of the Second World War some criminologist took upon themselves, the task of understanding the importance of studying the criminal-victim relationship, in order to obtain a better understanding of crime, its origin and implication. Because of their efforts, U.N passed a charter for victim’s right and on similar line the European convention on the compensation of victims of violent crime’. Therefore many states of Europe and America enacted their legislations for victims compensation in criminal justice system. Therefore, victim’s movement has been regaining momentum in whole world but with different shapes and been regaining momentum in whole world but with different shapes and nature.[iii]

VICTIMOLOGY AS CONCEPT:

Definitions-

  • ‘Victim’ means natural person who, individually or collectively, have suffered harm including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering or economic loss or violations of fundamental rights in relation to victimizations identified under scope.
  • A person is a victim regardless of whether the crime is reported to the police, regardless of whether a perpetrator is identified, apprehended, prosecuted or convicted, and regardless of the familial relationship between perpetrator and the victim. The term ‘victim’ also includes, where appropriate the immediate family or dependants of the direst victims and persons who have suffered in intervening to assist victims in distress or to prevent victimization.[iv]

Definition of victim under Victims Rights Act means

  • A person against whom an offence is committed by another person;
  • A person who, through, or by means of an offence committed by another person, suffers physical injury, or loss of, or damage to, property;
  • A parent or legal guardian of a child, or of a young person; and
  • A member of the immediate family of a person who, as a result of an offence committed by another person, dies or is capable, unless that member is charged with the commission of, or convicted or found guilty of, or pleads guilty to, the offence concerned.[v]

Victimology is a relatively young branch of academic research. Its objective is to gain knowledge about victims of crime and abuse of power. Victimology has from its inception adopted an interdisciplinary approach to its subject matter. Contributions are being made by experts from fields as diverse as academic lawyers, criminologists, clinical and social psychologists, psychiatrists and political scientists. There are specialized international journals for victimology; there is a world society of victimology and there are a number of regional and national societies of victimology. The purpose of the study of victimology is to enhance our understanding regarding victims and impact of crime on them. The aims of victimology relate to the meaning and issues of victimology. Therefore, the study of victimization is the study of crime giving importance to the role and responsibility of the victim and his offender.

  1. To analyse the magnitude of the victims problems;
  2. To explain causes of victimization; and
  3. To develop a system of measures to reduce victimization.

Today, the concept of victim includes any person who experiences the injury, loss, or hardship due to any cause. Also the word victim is used rather indiscriminately; e.g. cancer victims, accident victims, victims of injustice, crime victims and others. The thing that all these kinds of usages have in common is an image of someone who suffered injury and harm by forces beyond his or her control. The rapidly developing study of criminal- victim relationship has been called “victimology” and it is treated as an integral part of the general crime problem. The word victimology was coined in 1947 by a French lawyer, Benjamin Mendelsohan. Victimology is basically a study of crime from the point of view of the victim, of the persons suffering injury or destruction by the action of another person or a group of persons.[vi]

According to Viano, there is a rather well-developed vocabulary in English connected with the idea of victim:

Victimhood: the state of being victim.

Victimizable: capable of being victimized

Victimization: the action of victimizing, or fact of being victimized, in various senses.

Victimizer: one who victimizes another or others.[vii]

Victimology focuses on the victims’ relationship to the criminal. Hence, there can be two major sub-areas of victimology.

  1. The one relating to the scientific study of criminal behaviour and the nature of the relationships which may be found to exist between the offender and the victim; and
  2. The other relating directly to the administration of justice and the role of system of compensation and restitution to the victim.

SCOPE OF VICTIMOLOGY

Shinder, 1982– “…it investigates the relationship between offender and the victim in crme causation. It deals with the process of victiminzation, of becoming a victim, and in this context directs much of its attention to the problem victim-offender, sequence, i.e. the question of whether or not victimization can have crimogenic effects or can encourage crime”.

Hence, the definition above given makes it clear that victims are the predominant concern of the victimology. They are central figures in victimology. The study of victims I relation to the legal system of particular country is main subject matter of study of the victims.
Victimology has come of age. Victims, their needs and their rights, are being constantly acknowledged in words if not in deed. The victim has become a political tool or weapon depending upon ones point of view, but the concept and issue have, in a few short years moved from the domain of a hand full of pioneers to the Council chambers of the United Nations. And the people we know have made the difference.

  1. Victimology is study of crime from victim’s point of views
  2. Victimology analysis the victim-offender relations and the interactions between victims and the criminal justice system.
  3. Victim of abuse of power.
  4. Victimology is also study of restitution and compensation or reparation of the damages caused to him by perpetrator of crime.

The victimology is study of victimological clinic.

CONTRIBUTIONS MADE BY THE UNITED NATIONS

The basic purpose of United Nations is to protect the human rights of people and to maintain the peace in this world. Therefore, for the improvement of the humanity, United Nations has been playing a great role in protecting the human rights of the victims of crime. From time to time it has been calling the international conventions, declarations and other forms of international seminars. One of the most important developments in the field of victimology in the last twenty years has been the formal approval by the General Assembly of the United Nations on November 11, 1985 of the “UN Declaration of basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power”. In the Declaration the broadest definition of victim has been given in paragraphs 1&2. The victim is not the person who himself suffered harm physical, emotional or economic loss but term “victim” also includes, where appropriate, the immediate family or dependants of the direct victim and person who have suffered harm in intervening to assist victims in distress or to prevent victimization. Following rights have been granted to victims:

  • Access to justice and fair treatment

It is said that victims should be treated with compassion and dignity. They are entitled to justice and prompt remedy provided under national legislation. It is important o provide the information to the victims regarding his role, scope, timing and progress of proceedings and disposition of their cases; while allowing the views and concerns of victims to be presented at appropriate stages when their personal interests are affected without prejudice to accused. It is also important to provide proper assistance to victims throughout the legal process and to take measures to minimize inconvenience to victims and more importantly protect their privacy and ensure their safety. Of course, avoiding unnecessary delay in the disposition of cases and execution of orders or decrees granting awards to victim

  • Restitution

Offenders or third parties responsible for their behaviour should, where appropriate, make fair restitution to victims, their families or dependants. Such restitution should include the return of property or payment for the harm or loss suffered, reimbursement of expenses incurred as a result of the victimization, the provision of services and the restoration of rights. Governments should review their practices, regulations and laws to consider restitution as an available sentencing option in criminal cases, in addition to other criminal sanctions. In cases of substantial harm to the environment, restitution, if ordered, should include, as far as possible, restoration of the environment, reconstruction of the infrastructure, replacement of community facilities and reimbursement of the expences of relocation, whenever such harm results in the dislocation of a community.

  • Compensation

When compensation is not fully available from the offender or other sources, states should endeavour to provide financial compensation to:

  1. Victims who have sustained significant bodily injury or impairment of physical or mental health as a result of serious crimes;
  2. The family, in particular dependants of persons who have died or become physically or mentally incapacitated as a result of such victimization.
  3. The establishment, strengthening and expansion of national funds for compensation to victims should be encouraged. Where appropriate, other funds may also be established for this purpose, including those cases where the state of which the victim is a national is not in a position to compensate the victim for the harm.

COMPENSATION UNDER INDIAN CONSTITUTION

Recently the Supreme Court of India has given a new dimension to the Article 21 by interpreting it dynamically so as to include compensation to the victims under its scope. Indian constitution has several provisions which endorse the principle of victim compensation. In one case the Supreme Court, considering the plight of many rape victims in the country, wanted the National Commission for Women to draw up a scheme for compulsory payment to victims of sexual violence. Despite the sympathy expressed in several circles, victim compensation law continues to be in an unsatisfactory acknowledge in criminal justice with the result there is very little interest shown by them in successful prosecution of criminal cases.[viii]

Besides the many judgements of various High Courts and the Supreme Court of India, the Law Commission of India has also submitted the crucial Reports in which it has recommended to provide the compensation to the victims of crime. Among many reports, 142nd, 144th, 146th, 152nd, 154th and 156th are very important reports which have made very important contributions towards compensation of victims. Following the various reports and judicial decisions, the Government of India has made amendments in the Code of Criminal Procedure and s.157A has been inserted in 2009.

Fifth Law Commission, in 42nd report[ix] dealt with compensation to victim of crime in India. While dealing, it referred to and highlighted the “three patterns” of compensating victims of crime as reflected in Code of Criminal Procedure of France, Germany, and (Former) Russia. The three patterns are:

  • Compensation by the state;
  • Compensation by the offender either by asking him to pay it from the fine imposed or a specified amount; and
  • 3) Duty to repair the damage done by the offender.

CONCLUSION

Hence, as we know that this issues of ‘victimology’ is gaining importance, we need to give our due share of attention and help the study of victimology develop and be efficiently functionally. Though many rules and provision have been made by many governments still there is not much improvement in the plight of the victims. Victims that go through mental and physical trauma suffer throughout their lives, as there place is in the society changes. It is the states duty to counter balance the sufferings of various victims all over the country. If the status of victims is alleviated, it would be the first step in the reduction in crime and hence will lead to a certain amount of control over the crimes. So to alleviate the status of the victims and develop the subject of victimology, the following measures should be adopted:

  1. Proper implementation on various established laws;
  2. Since majority of crimes are against women, women empowerment in the fields if crime is necessary; and
  3. A separate law should be made for the victims such that speedy justice and relief is assured.

Edited By Drishti Das

[i] Michael Fooner, Victim Induced Criminality, science, vol 153.

[ii] Perspectives of Victimology in India’, SP Makkar, ABC Publications, p. 147.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Draft Convention- 14 November 2006.

[v] Victims’ Right Act 2002.

[vi] VN Rajan, Victimology in India, Ashish publication house, p.5

[vii] Viano, Emilion C, Victimology: The study of victim: An International Journal, vol 1, no1, p.2.

[viii] Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum Vs UOI, (1995) 1 SCC 14.

[ix] http://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/

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