It is been rightly said that Knowledge knows no boundaries and probably it was a perfect day for a bunch of students here to travel a journey of odd-30 minutes to perplex our minds with the practicalities of legal acumen. There could have been no better use of the bright Sunday morning then to attend the First Dinabandhu Sahu Memorial Lecture 2010 organized by our beloved teacher and mentor Dr. Faizan Mustafa at the magnificent academic block of National Law University, Orissa. The event was presided by Hon’ble Justice D.P. Mohapatra, Former Judge, Supreme Court of India and the keynote speaker was Hon’ble Justice A.K. Patnaik, Judge, Supreme Court of India. The topic for the lecture was Compensation to Victims of Crimes and Rehabilitation of Convicts after Imprisonment. His Lordship began with a very interesting instance to depict the sense of humour of this great legend. Once when Late Dinabandhu Sahu was sitting in the Court room as a defense lawyer and the Public Prosecutor was arguing before Sessions Judge, being interrupted by his comments the PP who was a tall man, said “if this little man talks more, I will put him in my pocket.” Without a loss of moment, he interjected – “if the Public Prosecutor does that then he will have more brains in his picket than in his head.” With an applaud from the students and the dignitaries present there, he moved on to the topic of the day. Following are the excerpts from the lecture:
“Notwithstanding the punishment of the convict, the victim may continue to be financially crippled on account of the crime and his right to life and liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution may continue to be infringed. On the other hand, we must bear in mind that a convict does not cease to be a person and as a person continues to have the fundamental right to life and liberty guaranteed under article 21 of the Constitution. All that happens by virtue of conviction is that the convict is deprived of his liberty during the period of imprisonment in accordance with law and after that he is entitled to his fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India. Hence our law must provide for compensation to the needy victims of crime and rehabilitation of the convicts after punishment.”
He referred to some of the Supreme Court decisions, viz., Nilabati Behera v. State of Orissa & Ors, Chairman, Railway Board & Ors v. Chandrima Das & Ors, D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal, in which the Court took the lead and awarded compensation to the victims. His Lordship also took note of section 357 of Cr.P.C. which empowers the criminal courts to award compensation to the victims. One of the interesting issues raised by his lordship in course of his lecture was that what would happen if the Court finds that the convict has no capacity to compensate the victim. To clarify the position on this point, he made passing reference to the Prisoners’ Earnings Act 1996 in England. The need for such a provision to compensate the victim in such situation was overviewed by the Supreme Court in State of Gujarat v. Hon’ble High Court of Guajarat. This recommendation was taken up by the State Legislature and it made a common fund in which a portion of wages earned by the Prisoner was set apart to be paid as compensation the victim.
The Hon’ble Speaker took a critical note of current trend as regard to the rehabilitation of the convict and opined that the law in India presently does not provide that the State has to undertake rehabilitation of the convict. The remarks made by the Supreme Court in this regard in State of Gujarat Case are remarkable. He concluded with the following remarks:
“…Law reforms for victim compensation and rehabilitation of the convict must be introduced in laws as early as possible on recommendations of expert bodies such as Law Commissions which may be set up by States. We must remember that in a democracy governed by Rule of Law any change toward a better society for the victims of crimes the convicts can only be achieved through reforms in the law and by effective enforcement of such laws.”