Mumbai: The 26/11 attacks, which ripped through Mumbai, are nearing a decade but shockingly many of the 293 injured and 166 dead victims are still awaiting compensation. This is not merely the claim of a city-based advocate but also the stand of the Maharashtra government since August 2014 when an affidavit was filed stating that 50 per cent victims are yet to be compensated.
Interestingly, the state home department maintains a deafening silence on the issue and has refused to comment on the current status of the compensation. Despite several attempts to reach out to Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Sudhir Srivasta to ascertain the current stand of the government, there was no response.
According to advocate Rajeshwar Panchal, the State government had in its affidavit stated that nearly 50 per cent victims of the attacks are yet to be compensated. He claims the government had cited the ‘lack of information’ regarding the whereabouts of victims, both Indian and foreign nationals, who had sustained injuries during the attack.
“The Maharashtra government filed an affidavit in August 2014, wherein it has stated that it is not aware of the residential addresses of the victims; so they have not been paid compensation. Nearly 50 per cent of the victims of 26/11 attack are not compensated. Also, not a single foreign national, who was injured in the attacks, has been disbursed any compensation by the government,” Panchal said.
This came to light during the hearing of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Panchal before a division bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka. In his plea, Panchal had contended that the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India includes a right to lead a safe and secured life. He claimed that when the victim of terrorist attacks or other act of violence, becomes permanently incapacitated having disability of more than 50 per cent, or when he or she dies, the assistance of Rs.3 lakh offered by the government is negligible. He had contended that the Union government is under an obligation to pay ‘Just Compensation’ and not a paltry sum of Rs.3 lakh.
Accordingly, Justice Oka had delivered a judgement in August 2014, directing both the governments to reconsider the scheme and also the amount of compensation granted to the victims.
Similar is the view of Devika Rotawan, the prime witness whose deposition led to Kasab’s death penalty. Devika was merely 10-year-old when she had deposed in the special court and identified Kasab as the terrorist who had opened fire at the general public at CST station. She says, “Though I got some Rs. 3 lakh amount as compensation, but I think this is paltry and not a just amount. I think the government must hike the amount since my deposition in the court has brought too many problems for me. My father is jobless, I myself do not keep well and in such a condition, I do not think that Rs. 3 lakh is an apt amount.”
In pursuance to these orders, it was decided by both the governments to hike the compensation amount to Rs. 5 lakh (from the State and the Union each).