Victim under SC/ST Act includes family members of person suffering injuries of the crime: Karnataka HC

    The Kalaburagi Bench of Karnataka High Court in Marenna @ Mareppa v. State has very rightly held that a Victim under SC/ST Act, 1989 includes not only the person who sustains injuries arising out of the crime but also his parents and family members. It is a very significant observation and ensures that the rights of the parents and family members are adequately protected.

    A single judge bench of Justice Hanchate Sanjeev Kumar held,

    “…the definition victim under SC/ST Act is wide enough, which includes any individual who falls within the definition of the SC/ST Act who has suffered or experienced physically, mentally, psychologically, emotionally or monetary harm or suffered harm to his or her property. If a person sustains injuries arising out of crime then, he himself, his parents, family members are also to be considered as victim as per the above definition.”

    The case pertained to a deadly attack carried out on a 14-year-old boy whose head was allegedly hit by an axe by the petitioners-accused. They were also accused of abusing the boy in filthy language by mentioning the name of his caste.

    The question before the Court was whether the mother of the victim (the informant) should have been made a party in the bail application moved by the accused persons.

    The Petitioner-Accused had contended that the the victim’s mother need not be made as a party and it would suffice if an information is given to the victim or his dependents or the first informant about the proceedings pending before the Court in terms of Section 15A(3) of the SC/ST Act.

    However, disagreeing with the submission the bench observed that as per Section 15A(5) of the SC/ST Act, the right to participate in any court proceedings is conferred upon a victim or his/her dependents. Therefore, the first informant/complainant/ victim or dependents shall be made as a party in the proceedings and issue necessary notice.

    Right of ‘Audi Alterm Partem‘ is conferred. The order reads,

    “Where a right of Audi Alterm Partem is conferred on the victim or his dependents, then the court has to give an opportunity/right of audience to the victim or his/her dependent to hear them as to enable them to participate in the proceedings including bail proceedings also.”

    In this regard the court passed the following guidelines:

    1. A right is conferred on the victim or his/her dependents to participate in the proceedings initiated under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 as enumerated in Section 15-A as discussed above. Therefore, the first informant/complainant/victim or dependents shall be made as a party in the proceedings and issue necessary notice to the victim or dependents/first informant/complainant/victim or dependents and to hear them in any proceedings as envisaged under Sub-section (5) of Section 15-A of the SC/ST Act.
    2. The Special Courts trying with the offence/s under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 shall direct the District Legal Services Authority to provide an advocate on behalf of the victim or his/her dependents/first informant/complainant from the Panel Advocates of District Legal Services Authority.

    In this backdrop, the Bench clarified that a victim or any of his family member(s) have a right to be heard by the court. Thus, victims or dependents can participate in any proceedings including those related to bail, discharge, release, etc, the Single Judge Bench opined.

    The Court observed that,

    “Therefore, unless the victim or dependent as enumerated in Section 2(ec) of the SC/ST Act is made a party in the proceedings in the case pending before any court, it is not possible for the court to hear whatever submission to be put forth by the victim or dependents in the proceedings before the court. Therefore, under these circumstances, making the victim or dependent as party in the proceedings pending before any court is necessary and mandatory.”

    Entitlement of victims under SC/ST Act to free legal service

    Section 15A(12) of the SC/ST Act confers right on the atrocity victim or dependent is empowered to take assistance from Non-Government Organisations, social workers or advocates.

    The Bench further noted that a similar provision has been envisaged under the Legal Services Authorities Act (LSA), 1987 as well.

    Apperance: Advocates Nandkishore Boob and Rajesh Doddamani (for petitioners); Government Pleader Mallikarjun Sahukar (for State)