As survivors of Human Trafficking –Victim Compensation is their right not a charity!
What is Victim Compensation?
Victim Compensation in simple terms is the monetary relief that the State is obliged to provide to a victim of a crime.It is the duty of the State to protect its citizens, when a crime like trafficking or any other crime occurs, the state is obligated to pay compensation to the victims for failing to discharge its duty.
Our criminal justice system has traditionally never looked after the victim’s welfare. The victim centric approach to the criminal justice system is quite recent. Reading of granting of compensation within the ambit of Article 21 of the constitution gained has gained a little momentum in the last two decades, with multiple court rulings directing payment of monetary compensation aswell as rehabilitative settlement where State or other authorities failed to protect the life,dignity and liberty of victims.
Victim Compensation has been included in the. Section 357A of the CRPC. It also designates the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) or State Legal Services Authority (SLSA) to decide the quantum of compensation payable in different cases. The provision also contemplates trial courts making recommendations for compensation in certain cases
Why is victim compensation vital in the criminal justice system?
As survivors of trafficking, we have seen, faced and fought some of the worse implications of being a victim. It has affected usindividually and our families. Most of ushave faced significant financial loss. The impact of crime has ranged from serious physical injuries to psychological trauma for us and our families.Apart from that ussurvivors of trafficking also face and fight societal ostracization, stigma and abandonment.
The rehabilitation provisions in the current legal framework focuses too much on institutional care rather than focusing on re-integrating the survivors back in the community.
It has been our experience that after the rescue, we are thrown into a grueling process of rehabilitation that is not friendly and sympathetic towards the victims. We are kept in ill-managed shelter homes and rehabilitation homeswhich adds to the mental burden often without ever asking us and for indefinite periods. After the release from such care, the survivors find themselves with no means to restart their life with dignity because of being financially inept and lack of social acceptance. Victim compensation, hence, is an important right of the survivors which opens up various avenues for them to re-integrate in the society through starting small entrepreneurship ventures, sustaining them while they get their life on track. In many cases it has also been found that compensation has made it easier for survivors to be accepted back in their community due to the financial independence. This also increased their level of self-esteem.
Victim compensation is a vital right that needs to be the central focus of the criminal justice system.
Human Trafficking and Victim Compensation: Gaps and drawbacks
In Human Trafficking, burden of proof to prove victimization disproportionately falls on the victim itself.The process of getting the victim compensation is punishing. The elaborate paperwork needed for the compensation adds to survivor’s humiliation and trauma and they are often made to recount their experiences multiple times. Currently, facilitating meaningful access to compensation often falls uponNGOs and civil society. Survivors of human trafficking, who usually have little or no knowledge of the legal system, struggle to navigate the complex government processes necessary to receive the compensation.
Often the victims come to know about the compensation schemes years after their rehabilitation. Since compensation is age specific (children below 14 years can claim more), age proof becomes necessary. However, most of the trafficking survivors do not have any documents with them. They do not even have FIR copies. When trafficking happens inter-state, coordination between different state authorities becomes another problem. Since compensation is given only through bank account, the issue of opening up bank accounts for the survivors become a hassle as well.
Tafteesh’s Strategies that worked well
1. An independent competent legal counsel for each of the survivors:
a. A lawyer who is well versed with the VC scheme,
b. Draft quality applications with computations mentioned based on the right violations after reviewing documents as well as consulting survivors
c. Has good coordination with the social workers and survivors
d. Present the case during hearings and keep the team updated
e. Use reference from judgments by Apex court regarding method of calculating the amount of Victim compensation to ensure maximum compensation to the survivor and apply the principle of beneficial legislation
f. Challenges non accountability of any system players and take up legal measures to counter the same
g. Evidence collation and use of documents and evidence
2. The documents that are to be annexed are first listed down as per the narrative of the case
a. A screening takes place of what is available and what is not
b. For documents which are not available, a process is initiated to collect it- for e.g. if mental health test reports are not there but is required to prove claims of trauma
3. Consultation with the survivors before drafting and keeping her informed and prepared throughout the process has been a key to the success of the victim compensation
4. Interstate DLSAs and the Police authorities are being mobilized in an efficient manner which helped in getting accurate case details of the victims
5. Strategy of interim compensation has been applied before courts in cases where hearings have been prolonged to put pressure on the DLSA and that seems to be working
6. Supplementary VC applications has been filed in cases where the earlier applications has been adhoc/one pager which is making the VC documentation stronger in terms of its computation
7. 7.Writs for SLSA notifications done in cases where fixed deposits circulars have been passed by SLSA
Tafteesh’s achievements since 2016
1. VC applied for 79 survivors of human trafficking
2. 45 survivors received victim compensation orders, highest order of rupees 6 lakhs and lowest being 150,000 rupees
3. 15 survivors went for appeals post rejection of their VC pleas
4. 12 survivors went for writs
5. Out of the appeals, 8 survivors got their VC amount enhanced
*With significant judgement from Tafteesh cases, other NGOs are filing VC , getting orders. In WB a case from IJM received highest order of 9 lakh