Mumbai: In an embarrassment to the Maharashtra government, the Bombay High Court on Thursday appointed a three-member committee for formulating a comprehensive scheme for compensating victims of rape and acid attacks. This comes after the HC observed that the government modified the existing Manodhairya scheme without ‘applying its mind.’
A division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice Nitin Jamdar observed, “Prima facie we are of the opinion that the government has just not applied its mind while modifying the scheme. There seems to be no rationale. The government must understand that this is a serious issue and it cannot deal with it in this manner.”
The judges heard a batch of petitions challenging the modified Manodhairya scheme pointing out several flaws. The petitioners highlighted the major flaws like the concept of disbursing only 25 per cent amount and keeping remaining 75 per cent amount in a bank as a Fixed Deposit (FD) for at least 10 years. The petitioners also pointed out that in case of minors, the scheme contemplates to keep the amount as a FD for 20 odd years.
Having heard all the contentions, CJ Chellur said, “We are of the view that the government has only applied its mind in terms of money and not the rehabilitation of the girl. We fail to understand as to what how the girl would be rehabilitated with such a meagre amount. Also, how much interest would the girls get from the FDs.”
Some of the petitioners also informed the judges that as per the revised scheme, if a girl dies in a rape or sexual assault, then her kin can get Rs. 1 lakh as compensation but at the same time if a girl sustains grievous injuries and undergoes mental trauma, then she gets Rs 10 lakh compensation.
Having heard the submissions, CJ Chellur said, “We are of the opinion that we must find a final solution to this since it is a very serious issue. We think that the scheme needs to be revised again especially for certain aspects like the quantum of compensation, the period within which the compensation would be given etc.”
Accordingly, the judges constituted a Committee comprising of two sitting judges of the HC—Justice Mridula Bhatkar and Justice Girish Kulkarni. The third member in the committee would be the Principal Secretary of the Women and Child Welfare Department.
This committee would now study all the aspects of the issue and also consult all the stakeholders like NGOs, activists and also other people and institutions working in this field. The committee will have to submit its report to the bench headed by CJ Chellur.