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Calcutta High Court: While deciding the issue of granting compensation to a victim of trafficking, a Single Judge Bench comprising of Rajasekhar Mantha, J., held that the victim was entitled to compensation under W.B. Victim Compensation Scheme 2017 read with Section 357A CrPC.

The victim was identified, traced and brought back from Pune to W.B. Two out of four accused persons were arrested, while the other two remained absconding. The victim filed an application claiming compensation under the Scheme which was framed in pursuance to the mandate provided by Section 357A CrPC. The application was rejected by concerned District Legal Services Authority and the appeal preferred by the victim was also dismissed by State Legal Services Authority. The grounds of rejection being that for providing compensation, both the conditions as envisaged under sub-section (4) of 375A needs to be satisfied; namely, first, the accused not being traced or identified, and second, trial not having commenced. While rejecting the grounds, the High Court observed, if the accused have not been identified, a trial cannot commence anyway. The legislature could not have imposed an occurrence leading to the same result twice over, as a condition precedent. Any multiple conditions must be independent occurrences.

The High Court noted that the object and purpose of the Scheme is, inter alia, that victim of a serious crime, especially women, needs urgent and immediate attention and both physical and mental rehabilitation. Such rehabilitation, from the nature of the scheme and the section, is not dependent on the pace of either investigation or trial. Further, compensation is awarded under the scheme as formulated pursuant to Section 357A, as the fundamental right of the victim under Article 21 (of the Constitution) have been violated. Denial of compensation to such victim would continue such violation and perpetrate gross inhumanity on the victim in question. On the basis of discussion and observations as mentioned hereinabove, the Court held that the State Legal Services Authority was not right in rejecting victims claim. Therefore, the petition was allowed and the above-mentioned order was set aside. The matter was sent back to the State Legal Services Authority for fresh assessment to be completed within ten days. [ Serina Mondal v. State of W.B., 2018 SCC OnLine Cal 4238, dated 25-06-2018]