Role of the Victim’s Advocate in Criminal Proceedings

Victim can engage an advocate

The victim is the direct sufferer of a crime. The victim includes his or her guardian or legal hair. A victim has the right to engage an advocate in the criminal proceedings she is involved in, under the law.

The legal provision that empowers her to engage an advocate of his choice to assist the prosecution of criminal case, with due permission of the court is the proviso to Section 24 (8) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

Purpose of allowing the victim an advocate

The objective of adding a proviso to the Section 24(8) of CrPC in 2008 is to give the victim a more active role or participation in dispensation of the criminal proceedings relating to her. This amendment upholds the concept of fair trial enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

It is the Public Prosecutor (PP), duly appointed by the State under Section 24 of the CrPC, who has to conduct the prosecution of the case as provided in Section 225 of the CrPC. The PP in charge of a case may appear and plead without any written authority before any court in which that case is under inquiry, trial or appeal, under Section 301 of the CrPC.

Malimath Committee recognises victim’s rights

The Report of the Malimath Committee, for the first time in India, recognised three basic rights of the victim: the right to participate in criminal proceedings, the right to adequate compensation, and thirdly the right to get legal services in every criminal proceeding.

Even though these rights are included in our statutes there are lapses in putting them into actual practice.

Victim’s advocate can assist the PP

The Supreme Court (SC) in Rekha Murarka v State of West Bengal [AIR 2020 SC 100] highlights the role of the advocate engage by the victim. Such an advocate can only assist the Public Prosecutor under Section 24 (8) of the CrPC and file Written Arguments after closing the evidence in the case, with the permission of the court. The victim’s counsel is only intended to have a secondary role qua the Public Prosecutor. He is not authorised to examine the witnesses and make oral arguments. However, he can draw the attention of the court to the lapse of the prosecution that need to be corrected. The victim’s counsel can make up for any oversights or deficiencies in the prosecution case. In turn the court can correct such lapses by invoking Section 311 of the CrPC or 165 of the Indian Evidence Act.

However, the extent of assistance and the manner of giving it would depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. In short, the victim’s counsel has a limited right of assisting the prosecution, which may extend to suggesting questions to the Court or the prosecution, but not putting them by himself.

Victim can file a revision or appeal

In Honnaiah T H v State of Karnataka [2022 KHC 6802], the SC held that the victim has a right to file an appeal or revision in matters which are not merely interlocutory in nature, such us non-marking of First Information Statement (FIS) based on which entire edifice of criminal case exists.

In this case the order of the trial court declining to mark the First Information Statement of the informant as an exhibit is an intermediate order affecting important rights of the parties and cannot be said to be purely of an interlocutory nature. The SC upheld that the High Court can exercise its revisional jurisdiction in a revision petition filed by the first informant where the trial court overlooked material evidence.

Further reading

  1. Lokesh Singh v The State Of UP
  2. Suneel Kumar Singh v State Of UP