Published on: 5 August 2023 at 00:05 IST
The Kerala High Court has ruled that minor survivors of sexual harassment under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offence Act (POCSO Act) are eligible for compensation under the Kerala Victim Compensation Scheme, 2017.
The court found the existing state compensation scheme to be inadequate in compensating survivors of sexual abuse under the POCSO Act, despite a 2021 amendment.
Justice Kauser Edappagath highlighted that there was no specific compensation scheme for survivors in POCSO cases, and sexual offenses like penetrative sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, aggravated penetrative sexual assault, sexual harassment, and using a child for pornography were not covered under the two Schedules of the Kerala Victim Compensation Scheme.
As a result, the court ordered the State government to either create a comprehensive victim compensation scheme for survivors in POCSO cases or amend the existing scheme to include them. Until such changes are made, the court directed special courts handling POCSO cases to grant compensation to child survivors, adhering to guidelines set by the Supreme Court in Nipun Saxena and Another v. Union of India and Others.
The judgment was made while considering a petition filed by the Kerala State Legal Service Authority and Alappuzha District Legal Service Authority.
These authorities had contested a Special Court order that required them to provide ₹ 50,000 each to two child survivors of sexual harassment.
The petitioners argued that sexual harassment was not listed as an injury in the schedule of the Kerala Victim Compensation Scheme, making it legally challenging for the District Legal Service Authority to comply with the Special Court’s orders.
However, the High Court interpreted Section 357A of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in a liberal manner, favoring the survivors in case of any ambiguity.
The court also emphasized that the Kerala Victim Compensation Scheme should be construed to benefit the survivors, as it is intended to be a welfare measure for victims of crimes.
The court clarified that “sexual assault” under the Scheme includes “sexual harassment,” even if minor victims of “sexual assault” under the POCSO Act were expressly excluded by the Scheme’s provisions.
The Court dismissed the authorities’ petition and directed the Chief Secretary of the Kerala government to be informed of the judgment.
Advocates Roshen D Alexander, Tina Alex Thomas, Harimohan, and Kochurani James represented the Kerala State Legal Service Authority and District Legal Service Authority, while Public Prosecutor advocate P Narayanan represented the State Government. Amicus Curiae KK Dheerendrakrishnan assisted the Court in reaching its decision.