Victim Rights and Rehabilitation
The Indian Penal System is still focused on punishment and retribution. Despite the decades of social activism, the system has not evolved into protecting the victims’ rights or offering them restitution for the crimes committed against them. Under existing laws, victims:
- Cannot ensure a crime is properly investigated
- Do not have significant role in court proceedings
- Cannot oppose bail for the accused
- Do not have recourse to legal aid to fight their case
- Do not have their rehabilitative needs addressed
Similarly, other criminal justice institutions also function to criminalise those they are charged to protect. Children who commit offences and are in conflict with the law, runaways and orphans, neglected children, etc, are often pushed into homes with inadequate facilities and poor living conditions. They are the subject of abuse in homes where their only exposure to an adult world is negative – the adults are either absent or are violent and abusive.
Through interventions in the field of social justice and inclusion, the Tata Trusts have aimed to work on issues faced by the victims of crime by partnering with like-minded organisations. Some of the key elements of this initiative include:
- The Trusts work with Jan Sahas Development Society, a not-for-profit organisation to offer restitution to the victims of crime who are ignored by the present criminal justice system. Through Jan Sahas, the Trusts have reached out to 12 districts in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan to ensure that people from the most excluded communities have access to justice, fair treatment, restitution and assistance.
- Activating legal aid authorities to provide support through lawyers to ensure legal representation, access to the court system and a fair trial by direct intervention in cases. The Trusts also promote lawyers’ forums as well as help youth from excluded communities to develop into ‘barefoot lawyers’ or paralegals to support cases in their own communities.
- Reforming the criminal justice system by creating dialogue, conducting action research and documentation, meeting with authorities and policy makers to raise policy issues related to victim rights. This initiative also works to strengthen the coordination between various stakeholders such as lawyers, legal aid authorities, prison administrations, police, law colleges and civil society.
- Offering vocational training and support for improved livelihood opportunities in selective cases for victims and their family members so as to ensure sustainable rehabilitation.
- Creation of knowledge hotspots, conduction action research and regular data analysis, documentation and dissemination of learnings and findings through Jan Sahas.
- Intervention in One Stop Crisis Centres (OSCs) in Madhya Pradesh to provide integrated support and assistance to women affected by women in public and private spaces within family, community or workplace.
The impact of the Trusts’ interventions in this field have been encouraging. Victims’ rights are now receiving more attention, and due to the Trusts’ capacity building and the resultant increase in social advocacy, there is a rising surge in reporting crimes. Victims now have access to legal support to register their complaints. These interventions have also resulted in the formation of a special police unit in Madhya Pradesh, and fast-track courts for speedy justice to women and child survivors of sexual violence. Through Jan Sahas, the Trusts also work to sensitise the police force in the state to the issues of rape survivors.
The Trusts have supported different models of restitution to establish best practices in the area of victim rehabilitation. Working closely with partners in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the Trusts are working to develop a scheme on the lines of the Bal Sangopan Yojana in Maharashtra to provide a monthly allowance to child victims towards their education and overall development.
The barefoot lawyers trained by Jan Sahas support victims in their communities and aid them in their quest for justice. Strengthening the Lawyers’ Initiative Forum (LIF) has empowered its members to fight for victims from marginalised communities.
The Trusts’ aim is to develop a justice system that is as focused on victims’ rights as it is on punishing criminals. The focus is on restoring the victims’ confidence in the criminal justice system by giving them the right to be heard in court and the ability to access legal aid to seek restitution for losses suffered.
Areas of operation
Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan