The Indian judiciary is attributed with an aggressive and intimidating cross-examination procedure. Confrontations of a ruthless nature are evident and the hostile environment of a courtroom adds to the woes of an already disturbed and dissatisfied victim. This adage had been iterated by the Apex court in the case of Mallikarjun Kodagali (Dead) v. State of Karnataka & Ors.,wherein the court outlined the lack of a victim-centric approach concerning the Indian criminal jurisprudence.
Delhi High Court, in the case of Karan v. State of NCT of Delhi, issued a slew of directions to the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) to bring into being the practice of submitting a Victim Impact Report (VIR) in consultation with the victim, to facilitate the court in forming the judgment while sentencing the accused. However, these directions continued to remain only on paper and did not come to life.
Victim Impact Statement (VIS) can be said to be the statement made by a victim either in oral or written form throwing light upon the quantum of loss, harm or impact he/she has suffered due to the crime which has been committed upon them after the accused has been convicted. These statements ensure that the trial procedure becomes much more sensitive because in the case of VISs, the judge can get a hang of the financial, emotional and physical hardships of the victim and it also gives relief to the victim that their grievances have been heard.
Development Of Victim Impact Statements
The very foundation of an impartial criminal justice system is based upon the access to justice that is available to the victim and the society at large. The United Nations Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime & Abuse of Power, 1995 further provides for this ideal in one of its postulates. The said postulate provided that the victim should be given ample opportunity to put forward their grievances and concerns and that a victim should not be reduced to being a forgotten man.
The idea of the Victim Impact Statement has become a part and parcel of various justice systems across the globe, it is widely regarded as a potent platform for a victim to shed light upon their sufferings, how has the crime affected them, how cumbersome they found the criminal justice procedure to be and also mention about the possible secondary victimisation which they were subjected to while the trial was taking place.
Victim Impact Statements have been incorporated in jurisdictions like Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and all the fifty states of the United States.
Difference Between VIS And A Victim’s Statement During Trial
The prime difference between VIS and a statement taken from a victim during the trial is that VIS is recorded after the trial has come to an end and conviction has taken place. These statements do not concern themselves with the nitty-gritty of the crime like the particular details but they are about the impact which the said crime and the trial had on the victim. VIS is mandated to be taken at the stage of the sentencing of the accused to provide insight to the judge on how to form a sentence for the accused. The victim in a VIS can also provide for a punishment with which they will feel relieved like time in prison, community service, etc.
VIS is meant to stand on two limbs, the first is to apprehend the impact the crime had on the victim and how can the victim be appropriately provided with reparation. And secondly, to devise possible policies to make sure that the future victims of a crime of a similar nature do not have to suffer the same hardships.
Importance Of VIS In Criminal Justice Reform
The moral justification for including victim impact statements (VIS) is to acknowledge the harm that the victim has suffered and to give them a voice in the criminal justice process. This can help victims to feel less helpless and more empowered. VIS can also provide psychological relief to victims by allowing them to confront their offender in a safe space.’
The penological perspective argues that victim impact statements (VIS) are necessary for effective sentencing, as they provide information about the harm caused to the victim and the offender’s need for retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, and rehabilitation. VIS also help judges to understand the human cost of crime.
VIS are important because they give victims a voice in the criminal justice system and can help offenders to understand the impact of their crimes. In some cases, VIS can also lead to the reformation of offenders by assisting judges to devise appropriate measures for punishment or rehabilitation.
Victim Impact Statements (VIS) are a crucial tool for reforming the Indian criminal justice system. They give victims a voice and allow judges to understand the full impact of crime. VIS is also an important step towards holding offenders accountable for their actions.
The Indian judiciary should take steps to implement VIS on a nationwide scale. This could be done by amending the Code of Criminal Procedure to make VIS mandatory in all cases. The government could also provide training for judges and other criminal justice professionals on how to handle VIS sensitively and respectfully.
The implementation of VIS would be a significant step forward for victim rights in India. It would show that the criminal justice system is committed to supporting victims and ensuring that they have a say in the process.
This article is written and submitted by Devam Krishnan during his course of internship at B&B Associates LLP. Devam is a B.A. LLB 4th year student at National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi.