Supreme Court of India has expressed its grave concern over states’ failure to check the reach of acids to the wrong hands and their failure to implement the guidelines issued by the court in Laxmi v. Union of India. While delivering a judgment in an acid attack case, Court has enhanced the compensation given to the victim from ₹3 lakh (as mandated in Laxmi) to ₹10 lakh. Court has also directed all the State Governments and Union Territories to consider the plight of such victims and take appropriate steps with regard to inclusion of their names under the disability list.
A bench consisting of Justices M.Y. Eqbal and C. Nagappan has passed this order while hearing a writ petition filed by NGO Parivartan Kendra, seeking compensation for two sisters from Bihar who were victims of acid attack in 2012. NGO further sought to highlight the plight of the acid attack victims and the inadequacy of the compensation payable to the victims as per the order in Laxmi. Petitioner also highlighted the lack of a legal guarantee to free medical care, rehabilitative services or adequate compensation under the Survivor Compensation Schemes
||Writ Petition (C) No. 867 of 2013
||Parivartan Kendra v. Union of India and others
Petitioner who was represented by senior counsel Colin Gonsalves contended that despite orders and directions of the Court in Laxmi, acid is still readily available to most of the population in India and the acid attackers are living with impunity, and the victims are not in a position to afford basic care or services.
NGO also prayed for issuance of writ of mandamus to the State of Bihar to reimburse ₹ 5 lakh already spent on the treatment, to the victims’ family and to provide compensation of at least ₹ 10 lakh to the them in lieu of their pain and suffering. Further it was also inter alia prayed for issuance of writ of mandamus or directions to develop a standard treatment and management guidelines for the treatment and handling of acid attack victims by constituting a panel of experts; to direct all private hospitals to provide free treatment in acid attack cases and to have pictorial displays with the first aid and primary care protocols and guidelines to neutralize the acid and stabilize the survivor in the all Public Health Centres, sub-centres and government hospitals.
₹3 lakh compensation minimum, states can give more
After discussing the enormous cost involved in the treatment of acid attack victims, Court observed:
It is pertinent to mention here that the mandate given by this Court in Laxmi’s case nowhere restricts the Court from giving more compensation to the victim of acid attack, especially when the victim has suffered serious injuries on her body which is required to be taken into consideration by this court. In peculiar facts, this court can grant even more compensation to the victim than ₹ 3,00,000/-.
Sight of victims traumatising
When we consider the instant case of the victims, the very sight of the victim is traumatizing for us. If we could be traumatized by the mere sight of injuries caused to the victim by the inhumane acid attack on her, what would be the situation of the victim be, perhaps, we cannot judge. Nonetheless we cannot be oblivious of the fact of her trauma.
Acid attacks continue as states failed to regulate supply
Expressing its anguish over the continuing acid attacks, Court observed:
These attacks have been rampant for the simple reason that there has been no proper implementation of the regulations or control for the supply and distribution of acid. There have been many cases where the victims of acid attack are made to sit at home owing to their difficulty to work. These instances unveil that the State has failed to check the distribution of acid falling into the wrong hands even after giving many directions by this Court in this regard.
Henceforth, a stringent action be taken against those erring persons supplying acid without proper authorization and also the concerned authorities be made responsible for failure to keep a check on the distribution of the acid.
States not serious, paying low compensation
[We had] passed an order dated 06.02.2013 directing the Union of India and States to implement compensation payable to acid attack victims by creation of a separate fund, only 17 States have been notified of the Victim Compensation Schemes (VSC). Out of which 7 states and 4 Union territories have not initiated the VSC. Even in those States where the Scheme has been implemented a meager compensation ranging between ₹25,000/- to ₹2 lakhs is provided for medical care. And many States have not provided any compensation for rehabilitation at all. In the present case, the Govt. of Bihar has fixed a pitiable amount of ₹25,000/- for the victims of acid attack
Higher compensation will help the victim and compel state to act
We cannot be oblivious of the fact that the victim of acid attack requires permanent treatment for the damaged skin. The mere amount of ₹3 lakhs will not be of any help to such a victim. We are conscious of the fact that enhancement of the compensation amount will be an additional burden on the State. But prevention of such a crime is the responsibility of the State and the liability to pay the enhanced compensation will be of the State. The enhancement of the Compensation will act in
1. It will help the victim in rehabilitation;
2. It will also make the State to implement the guidelines properly as the State will try to comply with it in its true sprit so that the crime of acid attack can be prevented in future.
Compensation enhanced to ₹ 10 lakh
…we direct the concerned Government to compensate the victim Chanchal to a tune of ₹10 Lakhs, and in light of the Judgment given in Laxmi’s case we direct the concerned State Government of Bihar to compensate the main victim’s sister, Sonam to a tune of ₹3 Lakhs. Of the Total amount of ₹13 Lakhs, a sum of ₹5 lakhs shall be paid to the victim and her family within a period of one month and the remaining sum of ₹8 lakhs shall be paid to the victims within a period of three months from the date of this order.
Implement guidelines in Laxmi, include victims in disability list
Furthermore, the State shall upon itself take full responsibility for the treatment and rehabilitation of the victims of acid attack as per the Guidelines provided in Laxmi’s case, (2015) 5 SCALE 77, vide order dated 10.4.2015
Disposing of the present writ petition, we additionally direct all the States and Union Territories to consider the plight of such victims and take appropriate steps with regard to inclusion of their names under the disability list.
Read complete order here
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