In Focus

The law affecting acid victims

By Nivedita Pal

Another landmark case, Laxmi v/s Union Of India (2006) where an acid attack victim, Laxmi filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court praying for the betterment of the acid attack survivors, adequate compensation to the victim and measures to regulate the sale of acid. Laxmi was a minor when she was attacked by three men in New Delhi as she refused to marry a man named Naeem Khan. She faced severe physical and mental trauma.

The issues raised in the PIL were:
- Considerable amendment in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 and Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1973 relating to acid attacks as there is no specific provision for the same;
- Complete ban on the sale of acid and its various forms and that such acids should not be available over the counter, as easy availability encourages such culprits;
- Prosecution of acid throwers as well as the rehabilitation of acid attack victim which included treatment as well as compensation, as the treatment and surgeries are very expensive

In 2013, the Supreme Court taking cognizance of the rise in cases of acid attacks on women, imposed strict regulations on the sale of acid, including ban on sale of acid over the counter and ban on sale of acid to a person below 18 years. Dealers can sell acid to a person only after furnishing of a valid identity proof and the need for the purchase. Also, it is mandatory for the dealer to submit the details of the sale within three days to the police.

Image for representational purpose only
Many other orders were passed by the court providing guidelines for the betterment of the acid attack survivors including amendment in CrPC requiring the government to compensate the victim, amendment in IPC and inclusion of separate section specifically dealing with acid attacks, minimum compensation of Rs 3,00,000/- to be given to every acid attack victim, full and free medical treatment and assistance to be provided to the victim even by private hospitals and no hospital or clinic can refuse treatment.

In Lillu v/s State Of Haryana (2013), for the first time the agony and trauma of a rape victim was realised who had to go through the two-finger test to give her character certification. On the basis of various precedents, the court held the test is a violation of the victim’s right to privacy and dignity.

The court held that rape survivors are entitled to legal recourse that does not re-traumatise them or violate their physical or mental integrity and dignity. They are also entitled to medical procedures conducted in a manner that respects their right to consent. Medical procedures should not be carried out in a manner that constitutes cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment and health should be of paramount consideration while dealing with gender-based violence.