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iasparliament
December 05, 2018
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Why in news?

The Delhi High Court recently stayed the practice of deducting 25% salary of prisoners for the victim compensation fund.

How does the compensation mechanism evolve?

  • Convicted prisoners get paid for doing work inside the jail, which can be voluntary or part of their punishment.
  • These wages are fixed on the basis of their classification as skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled and the rate are revised periodically.
  • Remuneration and wages differ from one state to another.
  • As per 2015 prison statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in 2017, Puducherry provided the highest wages.
  • It gives Rs 180, Rs 160 and Rs 150 per day to skilled convicts, semi-skilled convicts and unskilled convicts respectively.
  • This was followed by Delhi’s Tihar, which gave Rs 171, Rs 138 and Rs 107 respectively.
  • In 1998, the Supreme Court in State of Gujarat & Anr vs Gujarat High Court case asked all states to devise a mechanism so that victims of the offence could be compensated.
  • Prisons in various states made their own rules, with the amount of compensation varying from state to state.
  • Delhi Prisons Rules were amended in 2006 with Rule 39A allowing for 25% of prisoners’ wages to be deducted and deposited in a Victim Welfare Fund.
  • In 2008, the CrPC was amended with a new Section 357A, which stipulated that every state should prepare a scheme for compensating crime victims and their dependents. 
  • Accordingly, the state government notified the Delhi Victims’ Compensation Scheme.
  • Even then, the practice of deducting 25% of prisoners’ wages continue to be the practice in Delhi.

What does the court say?

  • It was the government’s obligation to set up such a corpus, through which compensation for the victims be provided.
  • The director general of prisons of the Delhi government cannot do something which was not permissible under the law.
  • Tihar authorities had assumed the power of a convicting court, which imposes fines on a convict, and gone against the Criminal Procedure Code.
  • Hence the wages of convicts and prisoners shall not be deducted till the next date of hearing, on February 8, 2019.
  • Also, the Delhi government have to file an affidavit about what powers enabled it to take such a decision.

What are the concerns?

  • More than Rs 15 crore deposited into the Victim welfare fund from prisoners’ salaries since 2006 has been lying unutilised.
  • The rates of wages of prisoners are already on the lower side, compared to the minimum wages that are payable in Delhi.
  • A further deduction from the same may not be justified or proper.
  • Also, since the Delhi government itself has created a compensation scheme for victims, it seems unreasonable to continue with victim welfare fund.

 

Source: The Indian Express

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