Psychological Trauma, Financial Burdens: Ensuring Interim Compensation for Child Sexual Abuse Survivors
This article shares the stories of a series of successful interim compensation applications submitted by iProbono’s panel lawyers to POCSO Special Courts in serious cases of child sexual abuse.
Kavita* was 11 years old when she was sexually abused by her step-father. The sexual abuse continued for several years, leading to multiple pregnancies and abortions. Her mother was complicit in these repeated crimes.
Now estranged from her parents, the child lives with her elder brother. He runs a food stall and is barely able to make ends meet with his daily earning of INR 300. Taking note of the extreme financial hardships, mental trauma suffered by the survivor and gravity of the allegations, a Special Court awarded interim compensation of INR 1,50,000.
But Kavita was not the only survivor allocated interim compensation by the Special Court. Three other survivors who sought iProbono’s help were given similar relief, based on different factors.
Rita* was 10 years old when she was sexually abused by her father repeatedly for a period of two years between 2012 and 2014. Her mother who works as a teacher at a senior secondary school in New Delhi is the sole breadwinner. From her monthly salary of INR 82,000, she sets aside a large portion to repay the loan for her new house. After accounting for Rita’s mother’s expenses and the impact of the abuse Rita suffered, the Court awarded interim compensation of INR 50,000.
Gina’s* father works as a daily wage labourer and her mother is a cleaner at a private company. She was eight years old when her neighbour sexually abused her. The Covid-19 lockdown exacerbated Gina’s family’s financial difficulties and the Special Court considered this factor, along with the survivor’s age at the time of the offence when awarding interim compensation of INR 1,50,000.
Vijaita* was only 11 years old when she was abducted and sexually abused multiple times by a baba (religious figure) who lived next door. Due to mental trauma and ostracisation after the abuse, she dropped out of school. While her mother, a domestic help, earns about INR 1500 each month, her father, a daily wage labourer, manages to earn INR 200-300 per day, but work is never guaranteed. On iProbono’s application, the Special Court issued notice for interim compensation and asked for police verification. However, the Investigating Officer incorrectly reported the cumulative income of the household as INR 20,000. iProbono disputed the police report but the judge did not consider this factor. Instead, taking the child’s age at the time of the incident into consideration, the fact that she dropped out of school, the mental trauma she suffered and gravity of the offences, the child was awarded interim compensation of INR 2,00,000.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 authorises Special Courts to award survivors with compensation for any mental or physical trauma caused by the offence or for the child’s rehabilitation. Compensation is governed by the POCSO Rules 2020 (‘the Rules’). Rule 9 vests power in the Special Court to pass an order of interim compensation for immediate relief and rehabilitation of the child at any stage of the case after registration of the First Information Report (or ‘FIR’). Such an order can either be passed suo motu or on an application made on behalf of the child.
The judgment of the Delhi High Court in Mother Minor Victim No. 1 & 2 v. State in early 2020 set the jurisprudential path for these Special Courts to decide interim compensation applications. In accordance with the mandate of the High Court ruling, Special Courts compute quantum of compensation themselves instead of deferring the application to the District Legal Services Authority. This has helped ensure that those in need of financial support receive it in a timely way.
*names changed to protect privacy
 Section 33(8), POCSO Act, 2012.
 Section 45(2)(c), POCSO Act, 2012.
 Rule 9, POCSO Rules, 2020.
 Rule (2), POCSO Rules, 2020.
 Writ Petition (Criminal) 3244 of 2019, Delhi High Court.
Photo credit: UNICEF (thumbnail)