An Analysis of the Legal and Policy framework for Victims’ Rights in Criminal Proceedings in India


From Miranda rights in the United States to the right to remain silent in various democracies, many laws and provisions are available to protect the accused during the proceedings. A very less discussed issue has always been the rights of victims during criminal proceedings. 

There were a total of 60,96,310 cognizable crimes registered in 2021  under the Indian Penal Code(IPC) and Special and Local Laws(SLL) crimes. It also implies that the cases registered will also have many or even more numbers of people who became victims of various crimes in India.  In 2021, according to the National Legal Service Authority, only 7851 applications for interim compensation and 8832 applications for final compensation were disposed of, among which most of the compensation was awarded to women under cases of acid attacks and sexual offences. 

In India, though we have provisions for victims’ rights protected under the constitution, Code of Criminal Procedure, and other statutes. Victims face various challenges at every step during criminal proceedings and the victim’s rights and rehabilitation who had to live with the repercussions of crime are woefully disregarded.

This paper will critically analyze the legal and policy framework for victims’ rights in India. Also, a comparative analysis of various countries worldwide will aid in assessing various unique mechanisms and the need for their utilization to enhance the rights of victims in India. It will also study the challenges faced by the victims in India’s criminal justice system and provide policy recommendations.


There are basically two types of justice systems: inquisitorial and adversarial. In the inquisitorial system, the investigation is supervised by the magistrate which is an efficient way and leads to a high conviction rate. In contrast, an adversarial system is a fair trial, wherein both parties get to prove and support their argument which implies that the conclusion is based on the evidence available, and in the absence of such evidence judgment will be in the favor of the accused. India follows an adversarial system to promptly address the issues of a large population. In such an adversarial system though the accused has the right against self-incrimination, there is also a provision of plea bargaining (plead guilty to get a lesser sentence or punishment) which exactly contrasts the former.  

The background of our justice system since independence shows that focus has majorly been given to the accused and their rights, safety, and basic needs are taken care of by the authority itself. Whereas, the person whose rights are violated, who has suffered harm has been neglected and taken for granted. The legal justice system has gradually evolved with consideration to victim-oriented reforms. Though the rights of the victims procured prominence and various pro-victim provisions were advocated and enforced. The presence of such provision barely solves the concerns of victims as at the ground level the victims nonetheless encounter hardships and are unaware about their rights.  In many cases, even the local authorities are not aware of victim-protection provisions and how to treat the victims with dignity.

The criminal law in India is not victim-oriented and the suffering of the victim, often immeasurable, is entirely overlooked in misplaced sympathy for the criminal. Though our modern criminal law is designed to punish as well as reform the criminals, it overlooks the by-product of crime i.e. the victims -V R Krishna Iyer

It is the fundamental duty of the State machinery to protect, deliver justice, and compensate the victim as it failed to adequately protect them from victimization. The judiciary plays a crucial role in ensuring a fair and speedy trial to gain the trust and confidence of the victims. In P. Ramachandra Rao v. State of Karnataka, it was realized that it is important to pay attention to the victims, and if left ignored they can resort to vengeance and pose a threat to the maintenance of the rule of law thereby disrupting the law and order of democracy. The 154th Report of  Law Commission dedicated an entire chapter to Victimology, where victim’s rights in criminal cases were given prominence and compensation was proposed as a widely accredited method to offer immediate support to the victim which also extended to the family of the victim. 

Scope of Victims’ Rights

Though it took too long for the world to recognize the rights of the victim, victims’ rights do not exist independently of the criminal process. Each victim differs concerning the harm or injury done to them and has different restorative needs.

Much before the United Nations or other developed nations legislated for the protection and development of the rights of victims, the Supreme Court in Rattan Singh vs. State of Punjab, lamented against the utter ignorance of victims in our justice system that, “The victimization of the family of the convict may well be a reality and is regrettable. It is a weakness of our jurisprudence that the victims of the crime, and the distress of the dependents of the prisoner, do not attract the attention of the law. Indeed, victim reparation is still the vanishing point of our criminal law! This is a deficiency in the system which must be rectified by the Legislature. We can only draw attention to this matter. Hopefully, the Welfare State will bestow better thought and action to traffic justice in the light of the observations we have made.” 

The notion of rights of the victims is comprehensive covering a variety of rights such as the right to participate in judicial proceedings, the right to avail compensation, rehabilitation, protection, etc. The concept of the victim is defined under Section 2 (wa) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), victim means a person who has suffered any loss or injury caused by reason of the act or omission for which the accused person has been charged, and the expression “victim” includes his or her guardian or legal heir’.

One prime matter that needs to be jotted down is the commonalities between human rights and victims’ rights. The former development of human rights primarily took place to curb the abuse of power and protect the rights of individuals and groups that occurred in the past times(such as the nazi regime, colonization, slavery, and world war) which also implies that the evolution of human rights took place to protect victims of such abuses. If we glance through the provisions of human rights, it has provisions for the accused who has committed the crime but does not include any provisions for the victims of crime. Victims directly experience crime, which also constitutes a violation of their human rights. It illustrates the need to acknowledge victims firstly as humans before the law with rights and privileges.   

The initial step of every victim is to approach the police authority available in their jurisdiction. The police authority plays a fundamental and primary role during criminal proceedings starting from filing an FIR to carrying out the investigation. The Indian judiciary plays an important role in delivering justice to the victims. In Articles 32and Article 226 of the Constitution, the Supreme  Court and High Court respectively have the power to pass appropriate orders which also accommodate the rights of victims. They also have the power to order the accused to pay compensation to the victims. Various NGOs and agencies work all over the country for the betterment of the victims, especially women and children.  

Legal and Policy Framework Analysis 

1. The Constitution of India and Fundamental Rights

The principles of victimology have a foundation in Indian constitutional jurisprudence.

Fundamental Rights: The rights of victims come under the ambit of the articles of fundamental rights of the Indian constitution. Everyone has the right to equality which also includes the right to equal treatment and fair trial under Article 14 of the Constitution. Article 21 compels states to compensate victims against deprivation of life and liberty. The right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 as realized in Justice K.S.Puttaswamy(Retd) v Union Of India And Ors. judgement.Thus, the constitution protects some of the important fundamental rights which also include the victims. Anything else would be a violation of what is supposed to be promoted. 

Directive Principle of State Policy: In Article 39A, the state offers free legal assistance and guarantees to promote justice on the grounds of equal opportunity. The 154th report of the law commission as viewed earlier also interpreted various articles in the Indian Constitution:

Article 38: the State to ‘secure a social order for the promotion of the welfare of the people. 

Article 41 mandates, inter alia, that the state must make effective provisions for ‘securing the right to public assistance in cases of disablement and other cases of underserved want.

Article 51A states that every citizen is responsible for the development of humanism, the spirit of inquiry and reform.

The cases listed below consist of references to the fundamental rights for the protection of victims in the legal justice system.

In Ranjitsing Brahmajeetsing Sharma v. State of Maharashtra (2005), the court stated that Article 21 because of its expansive meaning not only protects life and liberty but also envisages a fair procedure. In Olga Tellis v Bombay Municipal Corporation, the court observed that the Right to life under Article 21 can be jeopardized by violation of the right to livelihood. In Maneka Gandhi v Union of India, the court observed that the phrase “procedure established by law” in Article 21 does not mean ‘any procedure’ laid down in a statute but “just, fair and reasonable” procedure and that the term ‘law’ in Article 21 envisages not any law but a law which is “right, just and fair, and not arbitrary, fanciful or oppressive.”

Click Here To Download The Paper

Author: Prajakta Vaware