interim compensation in rape cases

The rights of the accused and the victim are at the core of any criminal justice system, especially in cases as sensitive as rape. Achieving a delicate balance between these rights becomes particularly crucial when considering the trial court’s authority to impose interim compensation. Interim compensation serves as a temporary relief measure for victims during ongoing proceedings, but the question arises whether trial courts possess the power to levy such compensation on the accused. This article delves into this complex issue, exploring the rights of the accused and the victim in the context of rape cases and the extent of a trial court’s jurisdiction to impose interim compensation.

“The root of ‘compensate’ is ‘to weigh’ i.e. to weigh different things together in order to establish a balance between them… ‘compensation’ carries the connotation of providing something equivalent in value to that which has been lost.”1 Hence, it can be inferred that “interim compensation” is paid temporarily, in the meantime, wherein the proceeding has not concluded yet. It is given for a temporary period. It is not a final conclusion. The right to compensation under Sections 3572 and 357-A3 is an important legal right of every victim.4 The Supreme Court has granted interim compensation in the cases of rape5, and upheld the same granted by the High Courts6, in many cases. The Court has held that compensation can be granted under public law by the Supreme Court and by the High Courts in addition to private law remedy for tortious action and punishment to wrongdoer under criminal law.7 The Supreme Court has exercised its power under Article 142.8, 9 Hence, in order to do complete justice, the Supreme Court has ordered, either the State10 or the accused11, to pay the interim compensation to the rape victim for the immediate need to rehabilitate and reintegrate.12 However, the power of the trial court to do so is contended. However, when it comes to the order of the trial court, it does not have the power to levy interim compensation on the accused to be paid to the victim, in the cases of rape. This is because it has no direct statutory power to do so in both CrPC13 and the Constitution14, neither can it oversee the accused’s right to a fair trial.

It is a well-established fact that the criminal offences in India are governed by the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, in consonance with the grundnorm the Constitution of India. However, there is no provision in the CrPC and the Constitution of India, which confers power upon the trial court to order the accused to pay interim compensation to the victim. The Supreme Court and the High Courts have levied such compensation based on the powers granted particularly to these courts.

The trial court does not have the power to order the accused to pay interim compensation before the conviction under CrPC as; firstly, Section 357 confers power upon the trial court to order the accused to compensate the victim after the conviction.15 Whereas Section 357-A(6) confers the duty upon the State or District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) to provide immediate relief to the victim, by way of the Victim Compensation Scheme made by each State.16 Upon reading Section 357-A, it comes to our notice that the legislature intended to create a fund specifically for paying compensation to victims or their dependents. The fund was to be the sole source of compensation, and the court’s only responsibility was to suggest the payment of compensation to the appropriate legal services authority. The intention was clear that the compensation had to come from the fund established for this purpose. The Supreme Court17 has reiterated the rule laid down by the US Supreme Court18 stating, “It is well settled that where the statute provides for a thing to be done in a particular manner, then it has to be done in that manner and in no other manner.” Therefore, it can be evidently established that the trial court can utmost order the legal services authorities to grant immediate relief to the victim. The Supreme Court, in the leading case19, has held that the question of awarding compensation should only arise after the accused has been convicted. The Court also stated that before granting compensation, an inquiry must be conducted to determine if the amount of compensation is appropriate. Therefore, the power of inquiry outlined in Section 357-A(5) was given to the State or District Legal Services Authority, while the Court was only authorised to recommend compensation payments. This was done by the legislature to ensure that compensation payments are adequate and fairly determined. It can be inferred from this decision of the Supreme Court that even though the court can order for victim compensation before the final conviction of the accused, Section 357-A confers such duty upon the legal services authorities, and not the accused. Based on the principles cited above, the trial court can either (a) order the accused to compensate the victim after the conviction of the accused; or (b) order the State, and not the accused, to provide the immediate relief to the victim before the final conviction. Therefore, the trial court does not have power under the CrPC to levy such interim compensation upon the accused to pay to the victim, even before the final conviction.

In one of the cases20, the Supreme Court granted interim compensation under Article 3221, wherein it has the power to compensate the victim for violation of the fundamental right.22 It has also levied compensation on the accused, but under its power of Article 142 to do complete justice under that specific case. Similarly, in one of the cases23, the High Court granted interim compensation under Article 22624 and Section 482 CrPC25. However, none of these powers are granted to the Sessions Court.

In the landmark case26, the Court has held that the Sessions Court or the trial court conducting the trials of the rape do not have power to grant compensation for the violation of the fundamental rights. It was also held that the writ has to be filed either in the High Court or in the Supreme Court, or the petitioner should approach the civil court.

In arguendo, such interim compensation violates accused’s right to life under the Indian Constitution. Expansion of Article 21 has gone to the extent that the right to fair trial of the accused is under the ambit of Article 21.27 In one of the leading cases28, that a “fair trial” is the heart of criminal jurisprudence and, in a way, an important facet of a democratic polity that is governed by rule of law. Based on the same principle, ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat states that there is a presumption of innocence for every person until he/she is proven guilty. In other words, a person is presumed to be innocent unless proven otherwise. The very postulate of criminal jurisprudence is the principle of presumption of innocence. The Court in one of the leading cases held that29, were there no presumption of innocence, it would go against the principles of a fair trial, as per Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, as well as against the right to live with dignity, since a reverse burden would infringe on it. The Supreme Court clarified30 that a conviction under penal law cannot be deemed to have effect from a point prior to the conviction itself and held:

38. To say that this presumption of innocence would evaporate from 00.01 a.m., though the conviction was handed over at 14.30 p.m. would strike at the very root of the most fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence.

In one of the cases31, the Court elaborately explained the entire jurisprudence of right to fair trial. It held that the right to fair trial extends to the right to be heard of the accused. It holds that “even the most hated human anathema has a right to be heard”.

Striking a balance between the rights of the accused and the victim is paramount within the framework of rape cases. The power of trial courts to levy interim compensation requires careful examination in order to uphold the principles of justice and fairness. While the rights of the victim to compensation and immediate relief are significant, they must be considered in light of the accused’s right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence. In the absence of explicit provisions in the Criminal Procedure Code and the Constitution of India, trial court’s authority to impose interim compensation remains a subject of contention.

The trial court’s primary role lies in ensuring a fair and impartial trial, while the grant of interim compensation is typically bestowed upon higher courts or legal services authorities. This distinction is crucial in safeguarding the accused’s rights and preserving the integrity of the criminal justice system. While recognising the urgent needs of victims, it is essential to navigate the legal landscape carefully, considering the limitations of trial courts and the significance of fair trial rights.

In conclusion, the issue of trial court’s power to impose interim compensation in rape cases necessitates a delicate balance between the rights of the accused and the victim. It is imperative to strike a harmonious equilibrium that acknowledges the importance of victim compensation while upholding the accused’s right to a fair trial.

† Second year student, BA LLB (Hons. in Adjudication and Justicing), National Law University, Nagpur. Author can be reached at

1. Yeager, L. B. (1990) [Review of Persons, Rights, and the Moral Community by L.E. Lomasky] Public Choice, 67(2), 195–198, <>.

2. Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, S. 357.

3. Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, S. 357-A.

4. Nipun Saxena v. Union of India, (2019) 2 SCC 703.

5. Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum v. Union of India, (1995) 1 SCC 14.

6. Railway Board v. Chandrima Das, (2000) 2 SCC 465.

7. D.K. Basu v. State of W.B., (1997) 1 SCC 416.

8. Constitution of India, Art. 142.

9. State of Punjab v. Rafiq Masih, (2015) 4 SCC 334.

10. P. Rathinam v. Union of India, (1994) 3 SCC 394.

11. Mehtab Singh v. State of M.P., (1975) 3 SCC 407.

12. Suresh v. State of Haryana, (2015) 2 SCC 227.

13. Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.

14. Constitution of India.

15. Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, S. 357.

16. Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, S. 357-A.

17. Rao Shiv Bahadur Singh v. State of Vindhya Pradesh, AIR 1954 SC 322.

18. Taylor v. Taylor, [LR] 1 Ch D 426.

19. Ankush Shivaji Gaikwad v. State of Maharashtra, (2013) 6 SCC 770.

20. Bodhisattwa Gautam v. Subhra Chakraborty, (1996) 1 SCC 490.

21. Constitution of India, Art. 32.

22. Constitution of India, Art. 21.

23. Railway Board v. Chandrima Das, (2000) 2 SCC 465.

24. Constitution of India, Art. 226.

25. Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, S. 482.

26. Common Cause v. Union of India, (1999) 6 SCC 667.

27. Mohd. Hussain v. State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi), (2012) 9 SCC 408.

28. Rattiram v. State of M.P., (2012) 4 SCC 516.

29. Mohan Lal v. State of Punjab, (2018) 17 SCC 627.

30. Pradeep Kumar Sonthalia v. Dhiraj Prasad Sahu, (2021) 6 SCC 523, 539.

31. Zahira Habibulla H. Sheikh v. State of Gujarat, (2004) 4 SCC 158.

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