Social Justice Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice M.B. Lokur and Justice U.U. Lalit has directed all private hospitals of the country to provide free treatment to acid attack victims. This would include medicines and expensive reconstruction surgeries.
The Bench directed all State Governments and Union Territories as well as the Medical Council of India to "take up the matter with the private hospitals" to ensure that acid attack victims are attended to immediately and adequately.
The Court was reportedly disposing off a case filed by acid attack survivor, Laxmi. The PIL had asked for setting up of a Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, also recommended by the Law Commission in its 226th report. The Board was supposed to deal with the compensation claims at the central level.
Private hospitals have also been directed to issue certificates to such people endorsing them as acid attack victims. The certificate will be issued by the first hospital that an acid attack victim approaches and will be used for claiming future benefits.
The Bench also observed that governments should provide Rs 3 lakh financial relief to acid attack victims.
On banning off-the-counter sale of acid across the country, it asked all states and UTs to notify acid as a "scheduled substance" to stop its unregulated sale. The Court also said its order should be sent to Chief Secretaries of all states and UTs, who in turn, would ensure that it reached District Magistrates for compliance and directed them to publicize it to ensure awareness among the people.
The order comes a day after the Centre had filed an affidavit in the Court, stating that private hospitals were bound to provide not just first aid to acid attack victims and but also free-of-cost treatment. Hospitals refusing first aid or free treatment to such people should be penalized, the government had told the court.
The Centre, in its affidavit, had also pleaded that there is no requirement for a centralized compensation mechanism; as such a system already exists in the states. The health ministry further informed that there was scheme in the 12th Plan to provide aid to hospitals across the country to upgrade and enhance the facilities to treat acid attack victims. It asked states to take advantage of this scheme.
The Court had earlier directed the centre to arrange meetings with Health and Home secretaries of all the States on the medical treatment of acid attack victims and the rules of compensation to be paid to them. It had provided the Union Ministries of Home and Health a month’s time to hold discussions and six weeks to file a comprehensive report detailing the outcome. The Bench passed the order after amicus curiae Aparna Bhat sought clarity on the role of private hospitals in case an acid attack victim comes in for emergency treatment.
Read the Judgment here.