Compensate human trafficking victim: HC to state legal body

Kolkata, Jul 3 : The Calcutta High Court has set aside denial of compensation to a victim of human trafficking by West Bengal State Legal Services Authority (SLSA) and directed it to pay the same to her. Justice Rajasekhar Mantha said compensation is awarded under the Victim Rehabilitation Scheme of 2017 as the fundamental rights of the victim under Article 21 (Right to Life) have been in fact violated. Denial of compensation to such victim would continue such violation and perpetrate gross inhumanity on the victim in question, Justice Mantha said. Such rehabilitation is not dependent on the pace in which either the investigation is conducted or the trial is carried on, the court said. "The object and purpose of the scheme of 2017 is that a victim of a serious crime, especially a woman, needs urgent and immediate attention and both physical and mental rehabilitation," Justice Mantha observed. Directing that the quantum to be disbursed either in one go or in intervals shall be decided by the SLSA, the court said that the victim shall be entitled to claim and justify the amount of compensation she requires at a given point of time "not exceeding the amount of compensation payable to her in entirety". Justice Mantha, while passing the order recently, also directed the state CID, which is handling the case, to conduct the investigation expeditiously and apprehend the absconding persons. The court directed the SLSA that it would assess the compensation payable to the victim and make over the same to her within 10 days of communication of the order. The girl, a victim of human trafficking, was rescued from Maharashtra's Pune and brought back to West Bengal. While two accused persons were arrested, two others are absconding. "The girl had filed an application under the West Bengal Victim Compensation Scheme 2017, but was denied the relief by a district legal services authority and an appeal before the SLSA was also rejected," her counsel Kaushik Gupta said. She moved the high court challenging the rejection of her appeal by the SLSA. Passing the order, the high court observed that the object and purpose behind the scheme is compensation to the victim primarily for the purpose of rehabilitation. A victim can claim rehabilitation during the pendency of the trial, prior to its commencement or upon conclusion of a trial as per the existing laws, the court noted. The SLSA rejected her claim on the ground that both conditions, one being the accused not being traced or identified, as well as trial not having commenced, are required to be satisfied to entitle the petitioner for compensation. The court said that the rejection by the SLSA on such grounds cannot be sustained in law. Justice Mantha referred to a July 2017 judgement by a co-ordinate bench of this high court that said the Victim Compensation Scheme requires and enforces the directive principles enshrined in the Constitution of India under Article 38 which obligates the state to render social justice to its citizens. A citizen cannot be asked to forfeit the right to live with dignity just because such citizen has become a victim of an act of crime, the earlier judgement said, adding that "the state is obliged to protect the life and property of its citizen".
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