Expressing displeasure over the current procedure of paying compensation to rape victims, the Delhi High Court ordered that the money be disbursed within 24 hours of the award and directed the city government and state legal services authority to sit together and devise a plan. The court also directed the Centre to expedite induction of over 14,000 additional personnel into Delhi police saying "it is the crying need of the hour".
"We are not happy with the current procedure followed. Two weeks is too long. Do it (disbursal of compensation) immediately. We want it done the same day or within 24 hours. Tell us how. Don't be vague. Give us specifics," a bench of justices BD Ahmed and S Mridul said.
It directed that the "complete plan" be jointly prepared by Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) and Divisional Commissioner, Revenue Department, and be placed before it by August 13, the next date of hearing.
On the induction of additional 14,689 personnel into Delhi police, the bench said "do not hold back. It is the crying need of the hour. Expedite it. Previous government didn't do it. We expect this government to do something. This issue (of additional force) has arisen in several PILs over last 10 years but nothing has been done."
Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain assured the court that the matter of inducting more personnel is being taken up as a special case and while no firm commitment can be given with respect to the time it will take, it is being done expeditiously.
Observing that additional force of 14,689 personnel is "essential need of Delhi police to maintain safety and security", the court directed the Centre to inform it within three weeks about the progress made in this regard.
On the issue of setting up additional Forensic Science Laboratories (FSLs), the bench directed Delhi government to file an affidavit within three weeks indicating the expected time of commissioning of the labs.
The court, which had taken suo motu cognisance of the December 16 gangrape, has been issuing a slew of directions on issues including women safety, compensation for victims, setting up more FSL facilities in the city and induction of more police personnel, including women.
During the day's proceedings, the bench was told by Delhi government and DSLSA about their respective suggestions to reduce the delay in payment of compensation to rape victims after the same is awarded by the concerned district legal services authorities (DLSA).
Delhi government said the delay in disbursal of the money was primarily because the victims in many cases did not have a bank account and where they did, time was taken in verification of the identity documents.
As per the current procedure followed by the government, after compensation is awarded by DLSA, the order is routed through various departments and officials before payment is made. Advocate Zubeda Begum said the money can be paid directly and immediately if the bank account of victim is known and the identity documents are verified.
DSLSA contended that till date the Delhi Victim Compensation Fund has not been created and that it has initiated a proposal for the same. The authority said it has directed that an award be directly communicated to the Deputy Commissioners of concerned district with a copy to Divisional Commissioner so that compensation is quickly disbursed.
The court said DSLSA and Delhi government are giving separate schemes which do not match and that neither is making any progress in the matter. It also noted that the Delhi Victim Compensation Fund has not been created as per the statute.
Delhi government, however, contended it has allocated over Rs 15 crore towards the Fund. "Allocation is different. There has to be a fund into which a philanthropist can donate money. So you have not created the Fund," it said.
The court suggested DLSA can create a bank account for the victim prior to passing the award and thereafter, the order will contain the bank account and other details of the victim and the same can then be emailed to the government for same day transfer of funds.
"The order has to be digitally signed. We do not want a scam to emanate out of this," the bench said. Meanwhile, advocate Meera Bhatia, the amicus curiae in the matter, informed the court that as per the affidavit of Delhi government, 33 victims are yet to be paid compensation despite being awarded the same in 2013.
Delhi government's Standing Counsel Zubeda Begum said the delay in disbursal of funds in many cases, including that of the 33 victims, is due to time taken for verification of their identity documents and also because they do not have any bank account.
The bench directed the government to clear the payment of all the 33 victims by August 13 and to bring their compensation cheques to the court on that day. It also directed DSLSA to ensure that bank accounts are created in favour of the 33.
Bhatia also suggested notices be clearly put up in all police stations, informing people that compensation is available for rape victims and the procedure to be followed to avail the same.