Section 357 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Cr.P.C.) – Explained!
According to sub-section (1), compensation can be ordered to be paid only when accused is punished with a sentence of fine or with some other sentence of which fine forms a part. It further provides that the compensation should be ordered to be paid from the amount of fine recovered from the accused. It, therefore, follows that the quantum of compensation should not exceed the amount of fine ordered to be paid the amount of fine would obviously depend upon the limit prescribed in the relevant penal section of the offence.
Sub-section (3) provides that where a sentence of fine is not imposed on the accused, the restrictions as to the limit of compensation awardable as mentioned in sub-section (1) would not apply and the compensation can be granted liberally.
The object of sub-section (3) is to provide compensation payable to those persons who are entitled to recover pecuniary damages from accused even though fine does not form a part of his sentence.
An analysis of the provisions of Section 357 would indicate that the power of a Judge / Magistrate to grant compensation under sub-section (3) is unlimited. Therefore, a Magistrate of the second class who can pass a sentence of fine only upto rupees one thousand, instead of imposing fine may award compensation under Section 357 (3) to the extent of any amount without any higher limit. Perhaps this aspect needs to be looked into and rationalised.
Clause (a) of Section 357 (1) empowers the Court to order expenses to be paid to the State where the accused has been punished with substantive sentence of fine. Such an order cannot be made in the absence of sentence of fine.
As provided in clause (b) of Section 357 (1), the accused may be ordered to pay compensation to the person who has suffered any loss or injury as a result of offence committed against him or his property provided compensation is recoverable by such person in a Civil Court.
While ordering the award of compensation Court must take into consideration the nature of crime, the injury suffered thereby, justness of the claim of compensation as also the capacity of the accused to pay the amount or compensation.
Where there are more than one accused, they may be ordered to pay equal amount when the gravity and consequences of their acts is similar. Payment of compensation may also be ordered in reasonable instalments if the Court thinks it proper and reasonable time-limit for payment of such compensation should also be set out in the order. The Court is also empowered to enforce the order by imposing sentence in default.
In murder cases, the Court may order the accused to pay compensation to the dependants of the deceased person who has been the victim of the offence of murder.
However, the Supreme Court has ruled that power to impose fine along-with death sentence should be sparingly used and if used, the amount of fine should not be excessive.
In the case of Swarup Singh v. State of Haryana, where the accused was found guilty of offence under Section 304, Part II of IPC, by the Supreme Court, his sentence of imprisonment was reduced to the period already undergone but he was additionally fined rupees twenty thousand by way of compensation to be paid to the widow of the deceased under Section 357.
In Jacob George (Dr.) v. State of Kerala, the accused a homeopath doctor operated a lady for causing abortion and the lady died within few hours. The Supreme Court reduced the sentences of imprisonment but enhanced the fine from rupees five thousand to one lakh, which was ordered to be deposited in a nationalised bank in the name of the minor son of the deceased lady.
In Balraj v. State of U.P., the accused killed his brother leaving his wife and four minor children. The Supreme Court directed the accused to pay compensation of ten thousand rupees to his deceased brother’s wife.
The Court further ordered that if the compensation is not paid within three months from the date of order, the same will be realised as a fine under Section 431 and paid to her. The Court made it clear that the power to award compensation under Section 357 (3) is not ancillary to other sentences but it is in addition to them.
The quantum of compensation ordered by the Court should be reasonable. It should be neither too high nor too low. The Court should take into consideration the financial capacity of the accused, enormity of the offence, extent of damage caused to the victim etc. while making an order for payment of compensation. If the amount of compensation fixed is too meagre, the higher Court may enhance it.
In Inder Singh v. State of Punjab, seven persons were abducted by Punjab Police and they were suspected to have been killed, the Supreme Court directed the State Government of Punjab to pay one and half lakh rupees to the legal representatives of each of the victims within two weeks of the date of order.
The persons who may be awarded compensation under Section 357 for the loss or injury caused to a person include his wife, husband, children or parent.
Where a Sessions Court while convicting the accused for an offence of murder, directed payment of compensation by the accused to the widow of the deceased, and apprehending delay in recovery, the State Government was directed to pay the amount of compensation and subsequently recover it from the properties of the accused.
The State was further directed to ensure free-education to the children of the deceased. The High Court of Madhya Pradesh held that in the absence of statutory provisions in this regard, the Court had no power and jurisdiction to issue such direction to the State. The Court said that under Section 357, only the accused could be directed to pay compensation to the victim.
[357A. Victim compensation scheme:
(1) Every State Government in co-ordination with the Central Government shall prepare a scheme for providing funds for the purpose of compensation to the victim or his dependents who have suffered loss or injury as a result of the crime and who require rehabilitation.
(2) Whenever a recommendation is made by the Court for compensation, the District Legal Service Authority or the State Legal Service Authority, as the case may be, shall decide the quantum of compensation to be awarded under the scheme referred to in subsection (1).
(3) If the trial court, at the conclusion of the trial, is satisfied, that the compensation awarded under Section 357 is not adequate for such rehabilitation, or where the cases end in acquittal or discharge and the victim has to be rehabilitated, it may make recommendation for compensation.
(4) Where the offender is not traced or identified, but the victim is identified, and where no trial takes place, the victim or his dependents may make an application to the State or the District Legal Services Authority for award of compensation.
(5) On receipt of such recommendations or on the application under sub-section (4), the State or the District Legal Services Authority shall, after due enquiry award adequate compensation by completing the enquiry within two months.
(6) The State or the District Legal Services Authority, as the case may be, to alleviate the suffering of the victim, may order for immediate first-aid facility or medical benefits to be made available free of cost on the certificate of the police officer not below the rank of the officer-in-charge of the police station or a Magistrate of the area concerned, or any other interim relief as the appropriate authority deems fit.]