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`Strike balance between rights of victims and accused'

By Our Staff Reporter



N. Ravi, Editor, The Hindu , delivering the valedictory address at the first International Conference on Victimology and the fifth Biennial Conference of the Indian Society of Victimology at Manonmaniam Sundaranar University in Tirunelveli on Saturday. — Photo: A. Shaikmohideen

TIRUNELVELI, NOV. 20. There is an urgent need to evolve a coherent judicial philosophy that balances the rights of victims with the right of the accused to a fair trial, the Editor of The Hindu , N. Ravi, said today.

Expressing concern that main issues of the victims were not even framed in terms of victims' rights, he said much of the debate was on the traditional rights of the victims, namely, protecting their privacy and the award of compensation.

"The area of privacy protection is one where an uneasy compromise has often to be struck between the openness of the judicial system and the interests of the victims. In cases where the victims are children or women victims of specific sex crimes, privacy protection has gained longstanding acceptance.

The area of compensation is largely a matter of public policy and a coherent system of compensating victims of crime from public funds is still to be put in place," Mr. Ravi noted, adding that the judges, in their discretion, had awarded compensation in individual cases.

Mr. Ravi was delivering the valedictory address at the first International Conference on Victimology and the fifth Biennial Conference of the Indian Society of Victimology held at Manonmaniam Sundaranar University here.

On the claims of the victims for a role in prosecution of cases, Mr. Ravi said the Supreme Court had enlarged the role allowed to victims in the prosecution of three criminal cases.

The first related to the case challenging the decision of the Karnataka Government to release 115 undertrial prisoners as part of a bargain with the forest brigand, Veerappan, for the release of actor Rajkumar, whom he had abducted. This was on a special leave petition filed by the father of a police officer killed by Veerappan. "The Supreme Court observed that the Karnataka Government acted in panic and haste. And the court did not find material to support the Karnataka Government's contention that it feared civil disturbances in case harm were to befall the actor," Mr. Ravi said.

He also cited the Zahira Sheikh's appeal to the Supreme Court in the Best Bakery Case in which a retrial was ordered after the apex court termed the acquittals of the accused a travesty of truth and a fraud on the legal process.

"The third blow for the cause of victims' right to participate in the legal process was struck in a series of corruption cases relating to high profile politicians. Here, almost as a matter of course, politicians in Opposition have been allowed to implead themselves on the rationale that corruption is an activity where everyone is a victim," he noted.

Restorative justice

The Vice-Chancellor, K. Chockalingam, said the victim in the mainstream system was largely prevented from speaking about the real losses and needs resulting from the crime. Restorative justice, main theme of the conference, played a central role in defining the harm and how it would be repaired.

While the mainstream system was operated and controlled by professionals, restorative justice allowed the community to play an active role in holding offenders responsible, supporting the victims and providing opportunities for offenders to make amends.

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