The Supreme Court, on Monday, held that a ‘victim’ is defined under Section 2(wa) of the Code of the Criminal Procedure. 1973 has a right to be heard at every step post the occurrence of the offence, including the stage of adjudication of bail application of the accused.
A ‘victim’ within the meaning of Cr.P.C. cannot be asked to await the commencement of trial for asserting his/her right to participate in the proceedings He/She has a legally vested right to be heard at every step post the occurrence of an offence. Such a ‘victim’ has unbridled participatory rights from the stage of investigation till the culmination of the proceedings in an appeal or revision”, the Court observed.
The Court added that “where the victims themselves have come forward to participate in a criminal proceeding, they must be accorded with an opportunity of a fair and effective hearing”.
“If the right to file an appeal against acquittal, is not accompanied with the right to be heard at the time of deciding a bail application, the same may result in grave miscarriage of justice. Victims certainly cannot be expected to be sitting on the fence and watching he proceedings from afar, especially when they may have legitimate grievances. It is the solemn duty of a court to deliver justice before the memory of an injustice eclipses”, the Supreme Court observed.
A Bench comprising the Chief Justice of India, N.V. Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli canceled the bail granted to Ashish Mishra by the Allahabad High Court. Remitting the matter back to the High Court for the fresh consideration of the bail application, it directed Mishra to surrender within a week’s time
The Bench, while hearing the plea seeking cancellation of bail, identified one of the issues as under-
“Whether a ‘victim’ as defined under Section 2(wa) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (hereinafter, “Cr.P.C.”) is entitled to be heard at the stage of adjudication of bail application of an accused?” It noted that traditionally, criminal law had been regarded as adjudication between the accused and the State.
The victim, who is the sufferer of the crime, was viewed as a mute spectator. However, the Bench observed that jurisprudence of rights of the victims to be heard has evolved and their scope for participation in criminal proceedings has expanded over time.
The pro-victim movement, the Bench notes, was augmented by the adoption of the UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for the Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, 1985 by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 40/34.
The movement was furthered by other international bodies like the European Union, that included the victims within the framework of the criminal law procedure. Victims Crime Act, 1984, Victims’ Rights and Restitution Act, 1990 were enacted by the United States of America to grant legal assistance to the crime-victims.
With similar purposes, Australia enacted South Australian Victims of Crime Act, 2001 and Canada enacted the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. These pieces of legislation have enlarged scope of participation as well as expanded the ambit of rights of the victims.
The 154th Report of the Law Commission of India, elucidated on the aspect of compensatory justice to a victim under a compensation scheme. In a report of the Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System, 2003 suggestions were made to develop a cohesive criminal justice system framework which would restore the confidence of the people in the system. It, inter alia, recommended –
…the rights of the victim or his/her legal representative “to be impleaded as a party in every criminal proceeding where the charges punishable with seven years’ imprisonment or more”.” Subsequently, the Code of Criminal Procedure
(Amendment) Act, 2008 was brought into force, which defines ‘victim’ under Section 2 (wa) as –
“…”means a person who has suffered any loss or injury caused by reason of the act or omission for which the accused person has been charged and the expression “victim” includes his or her guardian or legal heir”.”
[Case Title: Jagjeet Singh And Ors. v. Ashish Mishra @ Monu And Anr. Criminal Appeal No. 632 of 2022]