Measures to curb Acid Attacks; SC dropped the proceedings against Chief Secretaries of States

Measures to curb Acid Attacks; SC dropped the proceedings against Chief Secretaries of States

The Supreme Court today expressed happiness at the steps taken by Kerala in implementing its earlier orders in dealing with acid attacks on women and providing timely relief and compensation

A bench headed by justice M Y Eqbal, after accepting an affidavit filed by state counsel Ramesh Babu withdrew the threat of contempt proceedings against Kerala Chief Secretary who was present in the court in response to the summons by the court. The court also dropped proceedings against Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram after they filed affidavits after a lot of delay.

The court had on September 9 made it clear that it will not spare any state which is not implementing its earlier orders in dealing with acid attacks on women and not providing timely relief and compensation. The bench slammed the four states including Kerala for not filing affidavits in courts explaining the steps they took in this regard despite repeated directions and accused them of “willful defiance of apex court orders”.

The court issued show cause notices to the chief secretaries of all these four states asking them to explain why contempt proceedings shall not be issued against them. They were asked to file their responses by today.

Counsel Ramesh Babu told the court that Kerala was one of the first states to implement the apex court directives of June 2014 with the state giving administrative sanction for the Victim Compensation Scheme 2014 in February 2014 itself which is aimed at compensating victims of crimes.

The court is hearing a PIL filed by a Bihar-based NGO Parivartan Kendra seeking courts direction to government to frame policy for rehabilitation of the victims and to bring them in national mainstream. Kerala had filed an affidavit stating its policy in another similar PIL--filed in 2006 by Delhi- based acid attack victim Laxmi but had forgotten to make it part of record in the PIL filed by Parivartan Kendra.

Kerala’s affidavit said as per the policy compensation for  acid attack victims ranges from Rs.1 lakh to three lakhs. The affidavit said in case of injuries causing partial disability of 40 to 80 per cent and acid attacks causing disfigurement of less than 40 per cent of the body, the compensation will be Rs. 1 lakh.

The scheme is based on the amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure (Section 357 A) enacted by the Centre in 2008. The fund will be managed by the State Legal Service Authority and the District Legal Service Authority under the Home Department, it said.

Earlier, the apex court had set a deadline of March 31 this year for state governments to frame rules for regulating sale of acid and other corrosive substances to prevent their misuse.

In a bid to curb acid attacks on women, it had directed that this crime be made a non-bailable offence and had enhanced to Rs three lakh the compensation amount for the victims.

The court had said that a photo identity card containing residential address issued by authorities concerned would be required for purchasing such substances which in any case cannot be sold to a person who is below 18 years.

It had also said that out of the compensation amount of Rs three lakh, Rs one lakh will be paid within 15 days of bringing to the notice of the state government the occurrence of the attack.

In April the court had said private hospitals should also provide free treatment to acid attack victims which included reconstructive steps like plastic surgery if necessary.

“We clarify that by full medical assistance we meant that not only just government hospitals but even private hospitals should provide free treatment to the victims. They should not show reluctance. They cannot in any way refuse treatment and this treatment also includes from first aid till the reconstructive surgery in cases where it is required”, the special bench hearing social justice matters in the apex court comprising of justice Madan B Lokur and justice U U Lalit  had said.

The bench was then hearing a PIL filed in 2006 by Delhi- based acid attack victim Laxmi.

The direction had come Aparna Bhat, the lawyer for the petitioner pointed out to the court that currently most private hospitals refuse to admit victims of medico-legal cases, forcing the police and also their family to go in search of a government hospital. This wasted precious time because of which condition of victims worsened and many even died.

The bench directed all the state governments to issue instructions to private hospitals to admit acid attack victims. The private hospital first treating a victim have also been directed to issue certificates to such people endorsing them as acid attack victims so that they do not face problems in subsequent treatment

The court also observed that governments should provide Rs three lakh financial relief to acid attack victims and noted that it was found that many of the states were not providing the enhanced amount to the victims.