Relief for rape victims..relief can be accessed by a woman, minor girl or legal heirs of a victim

NEW DELHI: A week after the Union Cabinet gave its nod to a gender empowering legislation that will protect women from sexual harassment at the workplace, another landmark scheme — to provide financial aid to rape victims — could soon be a reality. Decks have been cleared to provide rape victims or their legal heirs with financial aid to ensure "restorative justice" in the form of legal and medical assistance, shelter, counselling and other support services. 

The plan — mooted by the ministry of women and child development (WCD) — has been cleared by the expenditure finance committee and awaits a nod by the finance ministry. The proposal entails creation of a corpus of Rs 150 crore. 

Under the scheme, victims will receive interim financial assistance of Rs 20,000 and restorative support services of up to Rs 50,000. The final assistance can be up to a maximum of Rs 1.30 lakh. While this relief can be accessed by a woman, minor girl or legal heirs of an affected woman, the aid can be as high as Rs 3 lakh in case of special circumstances. In certain special cases involving minor girls, mentally challenged or handicapped women, suffering from HIV/AIDS or STDs the amount can be higher. 

"Rape is one of the most violent forms of crime against women which impacts her socially, mentally and psychologically. This scheme will provide restorative justice by not just giving immediate relief but also addressing long-term problems like shelter, medical and legal aid," Krishna Tirath, WCD minister, said. 

According to guidelines laid down by the ministry, the interim relief should be paid within three weeks of filing an application with a district board. Taking a humanitarian view of the circumstances, the ministry has allowed for a time period of 60 days from the date of recording an FIR to file an application. 

The police station will also be required to forward a copy of the medical certificate and preliminary investigation report within 72 hours. 

The district board can disburse the interim relief of Rs 20,000 after a preliminary inquiry as far as possible within 15 days and in a maximum of three weeks. On the assessment of the needs of the affected woman, the board will be empowered to arrange support services like medical treatment, psychological counselling and alternative accommodation. The final amount of Rs 1.3 lakh can be directly disbursed by the district board within a period of one month from the date of which the affected person gives her evidence in the criminal trial or within a year from the date of filing an FIR. 

The claim by a victim can be rejected by the board if the affected person does not inform the police, has delayed filing a complaint or FIR, turns hostile during the trial, appears collusive or the complaint is not based on verifiable facts. 

The scheme also envisages setting up of a state and national criminal injuries relief and rehabilitation board.