Rape victims are not beggars and giving compensation to women victims of crime is the state’s obligation and not charity, the Bombay High Court said on Wednesday, terming the Maharashtra government’s attitude as “ruthless”.
A division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice GS Kulkarni was hearing a petition filed by a 14-year-old rape victim, seeking Rs. three lakh as compensation under the government’s ‘Manodhairya Yojana’.
The girl, a resident of Borivali, alleged that she was raped by a man who had promised to marry her.
The HC bench was today informed that after the girl filed the petition in October last year, a sum of Rs. one lakh was given to her by the government as compensation.
During the last hearing, the government had told the high court that it would pay only Rs. two lakh compensation to the girl, as the incident seems to be of “consensual nature”.
Irked with this, the high court today said a 14-year-old cannot be expected to understand and take such mature decisions and realise the consequences.
“We don’t like how the government is approaching the issue. This is a very heartless and ruthless attitude. Unless the government starts thinking and taking decisions in such matters from its heart and soul, nothing will happen,” Chief Justice Chellur said.
The HC asked Mumbai Suburban Deputy Collector, who was present in the court, as to how he would feel if something of this nature would have happened to his kith and kin.
“You (government) should think from your heart in such cases. There cannot be such an insensitive attitude. This is the government’s obligation to help such victims. They (victims) are not beggars and this is not charity. It is their (victims) right,” the judges noted.
“Manodhairya means self-confidence…The government should be boosting the victims’ confidence, instead it is doing the opposite,” they observed.
The court asked if the officers are giving compensation from their pockets. “This is tax payers’ money. What is the government’s problem then? Should we start collecting donations from the general public and give it to the victims?”
The bench noted that as per directions given by the Supreme Court, a sum of Rs. one lakh has to be given to a victim within 15 days of registration of FIR.
“In this case, the government has failed to do so. This is contempt of court order. Only after the victim came to court the government paid her Rs. one lakh. We should hold one officer guilty for contempt and put him inside jail for one day then the government will realise,” the judges said.
“We are surprised at the laxity on part of the officers and pained at their attitude. We direct Suburban District Collector to remain present on the next date of hearing,” they further said.
The bench also directed the government to file an affidavit giving details of how the board constituted under the Manodhairya scheme functions and how it takes decisions on how much compensation should be given to a victim.
The affidavit shall also give details of how many such cases have been filed in last one year and in how many cases compensation has been given to victims.
The bench will hear the petition on March 8.