The Bombay high court on Tuesday came down heavily upon the state government for its “insensitivity” towards survivors of rape and sexual violence. It said that the government must not for a moment think that it was performing “charity” by providing compensation and legal aid to such survivors.
A bench of Justices Ranjit More and Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi said that it was the state’s “duty” to come to the aid of survivors of rape, acid attack and sexual abuse and that it “wasn’t doing any charity by promising compensation and benefits.”
The directions came after the state government told the court that it was yet to take a decision on expanding the scope of its ‘Manodharya’ or the state victim compensation scheme, to apply it retrospectively in compliance with a previous court order.
The government counsel told the high court that the state Women and Child Development department had objected to the scheme citing lack of funds.
The state said that the Centre had released a “feeble amount” of Rs17 crore towards the ‘Manodharya’ scheme, and it needed another Rs40 crore to make the scheme applicable retrospectively from 2009 onwards.
The court also took exception to the government counsel’s submission that in one incident of providing aid to rape survivors, it had provided police protection to the father of one such survivor. “This man lives in a slum area where there was no facility for the constable to even get a glass of drinking water. He contracted dengue because he had to stand outside the house for eight hours. So it’s not like we are not doing anything.”
At this, the bench reminded the government pleader that the state had voluntarily announced the ‘Manodharya’ scheme. Besides, it said, the Supreme Court in its previous order, had mandated that state governments must extend aid to rape survivors.
“You are not doing charity by providing compensation to rape survivors. You have a duty to do so,” the bench said. “Manodharya is a special scheme so, do not defeat its purpose,” it said. “And about your constable, why do you force him to work even when he has dengue. Why don’t you deploy other police officials on a rotational basis?” it said.
It also directed the government to ensure that survivors are given the compensation amount as soon as the FIR is registered.
“What is the point of making the scheme retrospective if you will make the victims wait endlessly for compensation and legal aid while the trial drags on for years,” the bench said.
The court has scheduled further hearing in the case on January 24.