Cabinet to consider proposal giving victims (or kin) right to be heard during hearing .
IN THE Jessica Lall and Priyadarshini Mattoo cases, their families, despite misgivings, could not hire a lawyer nor could they appeal in a higher court. As in all criminal cases, they helplessly watched the trial proceedings and listened to the verdict — until public outcry forced the state to take a re-look at the cases. Things could change now.
The Centre has for the first time decided to grant legal rights to victims and their family members in criminal cases: to have a lawyer during the trial and to appeal against the verdict in a higher court.
Sources said the cabinet would discuss the amendments on Thursday and the government was keen to introduce the bill (CrPC Amendment Bill 1973) in the current session of Parliament.
According to the proposal made by the Home Ministry, victims or their family members (in murder cases) will have the right to hire a lawyer. The amendment is aimed at checking collusion between defence lawyer and the prosecution. The victim's lawyer will be allowed to present facts and make arguments even if they contradict the prosecution's.
"In several criminal cases, including murder cases, there is a nexus between the investigating agency, the prosecution and the defence lawyer, which often results in the acquittal of the accused," said a ministry official. "So even if the victims or their relatives are aware of major developments in the case, they are helpless." As of now, the injured party or their families do not have the right to appeal in a higher court. It is the prerogative of the investigating agency. The officials said investigating agencies often delayed moving a higher court against the trial court's verdict, thus wasting precious time.
"These two decisions will keep the defence and prosecution lawyers under the scanner," the official said. The Home Ministry has also proposed that in criminal cases, the State must give compensation to victims.