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Definitions Of Victim

The word 'victim' has been defined in various dictionaries (English and legal), legal assertions and statutes in the following manner:

General definitions:
Merriam Webster: "A person who has been attacked, injured, robbed, or killed by someone else".

Oxford Dictionary: A person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action the legal definition of "victim" that is set forth in relevant constitutional amendments, statutes, and rules, and this definition varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Legal Definitions
Oxford Law Dictionary: A person who is actually and directly affected by an act or omission that is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, or a person who is at risk of being directly affected.

Black's Law Dictionary: 'victim' is a person harmed by a crime, tort, or another wrong.

Statutory definition (India):
As per Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, 'victim' means a person who has suffered any loss or injury caused by motive of the act or omission for which the accused person has been charged and the expression includes guardians and legal heir of the victim.

Types Of Victimology

Various Criminologists and Victimologists discussed the subject of victimology founded on different experiences of the Criminal Justice Administration.

According To Fattah (1989), Victimology Might Be Categorized Into:
  1. Humanistic Victimology:
    It deals with actions which fight for the cause of the human rights of victims of crime.
  2. Scientific Victimology:
    It concerns academic research and activities which lead to the expansion of victimology as an independent discipline (Karmen, 1990)

Scheneider (1991) Classified Victimology Into:
  1. One as a sub-discipline of criminology which censures victims of crime and
  2. Study of Victimology as an independent discipline from a human rights perspective.

Critical Victimology:
Critical Victimology has been mainly developed in order to formulate solutions to some of the difficulties associated with positivism. Critical victimology mainly studies who possesses the power to apply the label and what are important considerations in that determination. Proponents of critical victimology opine that victimology fails to question the basic foundations of what crime is and supervises why certain acts are sanctioned, this consequently has caused it to develop in the wrong direction. Critical victimology centres around the issue of how and why convinced actions are defined as criminal and, how the entire field of victimology becomes focused on one set of actions instead of another. Critical Victimology attempts to examine victims in a social context.

Jan. J.M. van Dijk in his article talks about two forms of victimology, namely Penal Victimology and General Victimology.

Penal Victimology: The influence of the victimologists who pioneered the study of this domain made a strong contribution to the development of penal victimology. Penal victimologists are concerned with the study of illegal criminal acts. Research in this field deals with data related to the causation of crime, victim-offender interaction and such other matters where there is direct contact between the offender and the victim. Penal victimology is also known as interactionist victimology and penal victimologists are generally not very keen on providing professional assistance to the victims.

General Victimology: Mendelsohn advocated for the development of such victimology which would be free from criminal law and criminology and aim at reducing the sorrows and sufferings of men. He emphasized that the field of victimology should comprise victims of accidents, natural disasters and other 'acts of god'. Thus this category of victimology does not consider victims of crime only but also considers. It can be said that it is 'assistance-oriented' victimology since it aims at helping the victims rather than merely studying and interpreting them victims.

Newer Dimensions Of Victimology

The modern day concept of newer dimensions of victimology includes people who are bereaved of their basic rights due to factors like a natural disaster, war, accidents etc. In these cases also, the resultant victimization is not a product of any criminal act committed against the victim. In these cases, victimization mostly is caused by the individuals suffering on account of an event which was elsewhere under their control or was committed without any mensrea. Victimization due to issues like climate change, disaster management concerns, rehabilitation packages and arrangements for victims of development-induced displacement is very significant in this respect.

Another example is the monstrous Tsunami which hit the coast of India on the 26th of December, 2004, and caused havoc and destruction to life and property and for the purpose of Reviving and rehabilitating the families of agriculture and allied sector of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Rajiv Gandhi Rehabilitation Programme (RGRP) was applied by the Andaman and Nicobar Administrations, for which the Central Government had approved a package of Rs. 821.88 crores.

A study conducted to assess the economic influence of rehabilitation schemes for the farmers affected by Tsunami, shows that it has been beneficial for the farming community of those islands as it has improved their income and generated employment. Prime Ministers National Relief Fund had sanctioned a total package of Rs 13.08 Crores for the purpose of rehabilitation of victims of Tsunami and the child assistance schemes and scholarship schemes were also underneath implementation.

A special package of Rs 3452 Crore was approved by the Central Government for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the damaged infrastructure which was badly disturbing the life of the victims of the natural calamity and apart from this various other initiatives were also undertaken for improving the quality of life of the affected people and revitalisation of the place.

Therefore, the concern for the victims of such natural calamity or such other acts, which are non-criminal in nature but result in robbing the people of their basic rights, livelihood, security etc. and the Governments' response near their rehabilitation as an obligation on their part, is a manifestation of this form of victimology. The sufferers are victims as their rights are sacrificed and it is the role of the welfare state which requires state to provide for such rehabilitation.

In R. Gandhi v. Union of India, the Madras High Court, acting on the report of a commissioner appointed by it to assess the losses directed payment of the varying amount of compensation for the loss of property of the Sikh community in Coimbatore.

The right of victim compensation has been well recognized under the CrPC but is available only where a substantive sentence of the fine was imposed and was limited to the amount of fine actually understood. Section 357(3) authorizes the magistrate to impose a fine where a fine has not been imposed. However, this section is appealed sparingly and inconsistently by the courts.

The 152nd Report of the Law Commission had recommended the introduction of section 357-A recommending inter alia that compensation should be awarded at the time of sentencing to the victims of crime amounting to Rs. 25,000/- in case of bodily injury, not resulting in death and Rs 1,00,000/- in case of death. Since the recommendation of the report had not been united by the government, the 154th Report mandated the incorporation of section 357-A.

Vulnerable Victims

Though any individual can be subject to victimization there is a certain category of persons who are thought to be more vulnerable to victimization than others and the societal structure, the economic structure, and their independent characteristics are some such features which make them additionally vulnerable than others.

They are such individuals who are subject to a lack of power either physically or economically or socially and this power difference is the primary cause which leads to following victimization at the hands of the powerful. Such victims can be grouped as:
  1. Elderly Victims:
    With the rise of human rights issues, among various other issues, concern for the victimization of the elders also gained recognition. Abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of the elders were the foremost cause behind such victimization and such victimization has been categorized into physical, emotional, negligent victimization, financial, sexual and self-neglect.
  2. Child Victims:
    Children are the most vulnerable class of victims highly dependent on others, mainly due to the lack of mental maturity and lack of physical strength they need to be separately addressed and dealt with and they easily fall victim to various kinds of abuses (physical, sexual, emotional, and economic). The trauma agonised by them requires a separate treatment, unlike the elders. The juvenile justice system which is created within the criminal justice system breaks on the foundation of child centrical and child friendly approach.
  3. Victims Of Sex Offences:
    Victimization on grounds of sexual pleasure is the most common form of victimization and women are the most vulnerable prey to such victimizations. Ranging from rape, marital rape, and sexual assault to offences like outraging the modesty of a woman are several manifestations of such kind of victimization. In the present day context, such victimization is not restricted to women. Children and men even are subject to this nature of victimization.
  4. Female Victims:
    Generally female victimization is considered to be restricted to sex-related offences. But this narrow observation causes gross mistreatment to the victims who are in more than one case subject to victimization on grounds apart from sex. The discrimination that a woman is subject to at her workplace in her professional growth, the disparity in wages that she suffers, and the ill-treatment done to women in homes behind closed doors are not manifestations of sexual offences but are definitely quite vocal about the vast variety of victimizations of various nature to which she is subject and it majorly reflects the power imbalance in a patriarchal society. The male superiority and insecurity get reflected in such kinds of victimization in each field of human life which ultimately calls for special treatment and protection for women.
  5. Minority Groups And Weaker Sections:
    Pluralistic society is inhabited by various linguistic, regional, religious, and ethnic communities. Class, caste and the religious distinction between these groups get reflected in the socio-economic disparity among them. Such differences lead to the majority and minority groups, economically weak and economically strong groups and socially weak and socially strong groups.

    The power difference between these groups leads to the exploitation of the weaker by the strong and such exploitation takes the form of various denial and breach of rights of the weaker/ minority group. The powerful exert their influence and force on the weaker which finally leads to the persecution of the less powerful. So it is very important that laws and policies are enclosed keeping in mind the interest and protection of such category of victims.

Compensation Under Indian Constitution

Recently the Supreme Court of India has given a new dimension to Article 21 by interpreting it dynamically so as to include compensation to the victims under its possibility. The Indian constitution has several provisions which endorse the principle of victim compensation. In one case the Supreme Court, of the plight of many rape victims in the country, wanted the National Commission for Women to draw up a scheme for compulsory reimbursement to victims of sexual violence.

Despite the sympathy expressed in several circles, victim compensation law continues to be unsatisfactory acknowledge in criminal justice with the result there is very little interest shown by them in the successful prosecution of criminal cases.

Besides the many judgements of various High Courts and the Supreme Court of India, the Law Commission of India has also submitted crucial Reports in which it has recommended providing compensation to the victims of crime. Among many reports, 142nd, 144th, 146th, 152nd, 154th and 156thare very important reports which have made very important contributions towards compensation of victims and following the various reports and judicial decisions, the Government of India has made amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure and s.157A has been inserted in 2009.

Fifth Law Commission, in the 42nd report[ix] dealt with compensation to the victim of crime in India. While dealing, it referred to and highlighted the "three patterns" of compensating victims of crime as reflected in the Code of Criminal Procedure of France, Germany, and (Former) Russia.

The three patterns are
  • Compensation by the state
  • the compensation by the offender either by asking him to pay it from the fine imposed or a specified amount; and
  • Duty to repair the damage done by the criminal.

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