Mumbai, Oct. 12 (Agencies): The Bombay High Court on Thursday knocked the government’s changes in a scheme for victims of sexual and acid attacks that would have turned the bulk of a lump-sum payment into long-term fixed deposits.
”We don't think the state government has applied its mind before modifying the scheme. There seems to be no rationale. Such a scheme should have a purpose and should be appreciative,” Chief Justice Manjula Chellur said.
A division bench of Chief Justice Chellur and Justice N.M. Jamdar set up a three-member committee to hear all stakeholders and come up with a model and comprehensive policy.
Two of the members will be high court judges and the third the principal secretary of the women and child welfare department.
The government had in August modified the Manodhairya scheme, which provides compensation to victims of sexual assault and acid attacks.
The changes had attracted a flurry of petitions in the form of public interest litigation.
One of the petitioners has argued that, in the modified scheme, 75 per cent of the monetary compensation awarded to the victim has to be kept in a fixed deposit for 10 years and only 25 per cent given up front.
For victims who are minors, the amount will have to be kept in a fixed deposit for 20 years. The maximum interim compensation cannot be more than Rs 25,000.
Referring to this, Chief Justice Chellur said, “What is a victim going to do with this Rs 25,000? What interest will the girl get from the money kept in fixed deposit? For the sake of giving money you (government) cannot do this. It seems that the government has applied its mind only on the money part.”
”This is a serious issue and we need to find a solution to this once and for all. Having regard to the modified scheme and in particular aspects, like the quantum of compensation, the time taken for disbursement and the usage of the same we are of the opinion that there is certainly need for re- visitation,” the chief justice said.
“We direct for a committee to be set up comprising Justices Mridula Bhatkar and Girish Kulkarni and the principal secretary of women and child welfare department,” she said.
The committee shall meet and hear all stakeholders such as non-government organisations, who are aware of the practical and factual situation in such cases.
The committee is to submit its scheme to the court.
Another point of the modified scheme that has been challenged is a clause that the amount to be paid to the kin of a victim who dies of sexual assault or rape is Rs 1 lakh, while for a victim who suffers grievous injury or mental trauma or is gang-raped, it is Rs 10 lakh.
Advocate Flavia Agnes, who appeared for Majlis Manch, one of the petitioners, said, “There are no stringent guidelines on what constitutes permanent damage, who decides? There are no criteria. The scheme should not be of exclusion but of inclusion.”
The new scheme also makes the victim's Aadhar number mandatory for grant of compensation and disbursal of funds.
“Many of the victims are from poor and economically marginalised sections of the society who may not have Aadhar numbers. Importantly, the issue regarding making Aadhar mandatory for the beneficial schemes is pending before the Supreme Court of India,” stated one of the petitions.