Court cannot quantify and fix the amount of victim compensation under Section 357A CrPC: Jharkhand High Court

Court only has the right to recommend payment of compensation, which has to be quantified after adjudging the adequacy of the same, by the State or District Legal Services Authority after a proper inquiry; but cannot fix the amount u/s 357 A of Criminal Procedure Code. Jharkhand High Court gave the judgment in the case of Sumit Kumar Shaw & others vs. The State of Jharkhand & others [Cr. M.P. No. 2194 of 2020] presided over by the bench of Hon’ble Justice Ananda Sen.

In the instant case, the petitioners were accused of offences u/s 406 and 420 of IPC, and therefore, they had made an appeal for anticipatory bail. While granting the bail; learned Judicial Commissioner, Ranchi, directed the petitioners to pay a sum of Rs.1 lakh collectively, in favor of the informant/victim, as ad-interim victim compensation. The petitioners were aggrieved by this part of the order.

The petitioner’s counsel had argued that the Judicial Commissioner had committed a grave error in granting victim compensation at the stage of grant of bail by directing the petitioners to pay the said amount. He submitted that at the stage of bail, the petitioners were merely accused. As there was a presumption of innocence in their favor, the petitioners could not have been directed to compensate the informant/victim. Counsel contended that the Judicial Commissioner went beyond the scope of 357 A which does not give any power to direct payment of victim compensation. As per their submission, the Court was only a recommending authority, and could not have fixed the quantum of compensation. While referring to the judgments of (2008) 12 SCC 675 [State of Uttar Pradesh & Another versus UP Rajya Khanij Vikas Nigam Sangarsh Samiti & Others]; 2020 (2) JBCJ 640 (HC) [Jitendra Oraon versus The State of Jharkhand]; (2015) 2 SCC 227 [Suresh & Another Versus State of Haryana], petitioners submitted that according to the provisions of law, their petition should be allowed and the previous orders must be set aside.

On the contrary, the learned counsel of the State submitted that the Court below has got jurisdiction to direct payment of victim compensation at any stage of a criminal proceeding and stated that the Court has the power to grant any relief and pass any order as a condition of bail.

The issues which rose in front of the court were that “Whether Court can fix the quantum of victim compensation and/or give a direction to make payment of victim compensation under Section 357A of the Code after quantifying the same? And “Whether the Court can direct an accused to pay compensation or victim compensation at the time of granting bail or at any stage prior to the conclusion of the trial?”

Observing all the arguments and considering the provisions of law; The High Court bench gave the judgment that “The role of the court is recommendatory in nature and hence it cannot fix the compensation amount to be paid to the victim u/s 357 A of the CrPC”. Court also decided that “Only the recommendation can be made by way of the interim measure at any stage of the proceedings”. And hence, the order passed by the Judicial Commissioner was quashed which directed the petitioners to pay the amount of Rs 1 lac to the victims.

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