The Bombay High Court today said there was no rationale and proper application of mind in the recent modification to the Manodhairya scheme, which provides compensation to victims of sexual assault and acid attack. A division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice N M Jamdar set up a three-member committee comprising two judges of the high court and principal secretary of the state’s women and child welfare department to hear stakeholders and come up with a model and comprehensive policy. The court was hearing a bunch of public interest litigations (PILs) challenging the modifications made to the Manodhairya scheme in August this year.
“We don’t think the state government has applied its mind before modifying the scheme. There seems to be no rationale. Such a scheme should have a purpose and should be appreciative,” Chief Justice Chellur said. One of the petitioners has argued that in the modified scheme, 75 per cent of the monetary compensation awarded to the victim has to be kept in a fixed deposit for a period of 10 years and the remaining 25 per cent will be given to the victim. In case the victim is a minor then the modified scheme states that the amount will be kept in a fixed deposit for 20 years. The maximum interim compensation cannot be more than Rs 25,000.
Referring to this, Chief Justice Chellur said, “What is a victim going to do with this Rs 25,000? What interest will the girl get from the money kept in fixed deposit? For the sake of giving money you (government) cannot do this. It seems that the government has applied its mind only on the money part.” “This is a serious issue and we need to find a solution to this once and for all. Having regard to the modified scheme and in particular aspects, like the quantum of compensation, the time taken for disbursement and the usage of the same we are of the opinion that there is certainly need for re- visitation,” the chief justice said. “We direct for a committee to be set up comprising Justices Mridula Bhatkar and Girish Kulkarni and the principal secretary of women and child welfare department,” she said.
The committee shall meet and hear all stakeholders like NGOs, who are aware of the practical and factualsituation in such cases. “It would be proper if once and for all a model and comprehensive scheme is formulated. The committee shall submit this scheme before us,” the court said. Another aspect of the modified scheme, which is under challenge, is that the amount paid to the kin of a victim who dies of sexual assault or rape is only Rs 1 lakh, while for a victim who suffers grievous injury or mental trauma or is gangraped, it is Rs 10 lakh. Advocate Flavia Agnes, who appeared for Majlis Manch, one of the petitioners, said, “There are no stringent guidelines on what constitutes permanent damage, who decides? There is no criteria. The scheme should not be of exclusion but of inclusion.”
The new scheme also makes the victim’s Aadhar number mandatory for grant of compensation and disbursal of funds. “Many of the victims are from poor and economically marginalised sections of the society who may not have Aadhar numbers. Importantly, the issue regarding making Aadhar mandatory for the beneficial schemes is pending before the Supreme Court of India,” stated one of the petitions.