Visibility of victim rights- Legal provisions for an acid attack survivor

 

What is an acid attack?

 An acid attack, interchangeable with the term “acid throwing”, is a heinous crime that refers to the act of throwing acid or a similar corrosive substance at another person with the intention to disfigure, maim, torture or kill them. In many cases it leads to death, but in cases where the victim survives, they battle extremely horrific realities such as permanent physical disfiguration, psychological trauma and social exclusion.

The Birth of Section 326A:

Due to the heinous nature of these acts, an acid attack is recognized as a form of assault that is registered as a penal offence under Section 326A of the Indian Penal Code that falls under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013 passed by the Supreme Court, addressing this atrocious assault on (usually) a woman as a punishable offence.

As a consequence of the severity of the damage done, acid attack survivors have certain rights that the Indian government recognizes and delivers,including victim  compensation, treatment, quotasfor education and certain rights under the Disability Act.

In a society where acid is so inexpensive and readily available, it’s crucial to understand that nobody is invincible and that nobody is an exception when it comes to these attacks. Therefore, seeking awareness about the rights of an acid attack survivor is of utmost importance for a myriad of reasons, including the harsh reality that we may fall victim to such atrocity one day. Its also vital to be aware of the legal discourse that follows an acid attack so that we can help our fellow sisters who fall prey to these monstrosities and hold our governments responsible for following through their decorated laws that are rarely ever properly implemented.

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 The Aftermath- Free and immediate medical attention

In the immediate aftermath of an acid attack, the constitutional laws recognizes that one has the right to prompt and free medical attention from the nearest hospital facility. Under the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013 that recognized acid attacks as a criminal offence, section 357C was inserted as a part of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 which pertains to the treatment for survivors, clearly stating,

“All hospitals, public or private, whether run by the Central Government, the State Government, Local Bodies or any other person, shall immediately provide the first aid or medical treatment, free of cost, to the victims of any offence covered under Section 326 A, 376, 376A, 376B, 376C, 376D or Section 376E of the Indian Penal Code and shall immediately inform the police of such incident.”

In instances where a hospital is not equipped to handle immediate medical treatment, it is obliged to initiate an immediate transfer of the patient to a facility that can ensure medical treatment of the victim. This scheme ensures that a survivor of an acid attack is ensured proper treatment via a private or government hospital in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

While this law guarantees a promise for instantaneous medical care for a survivor, there are many cases where hospitals, especially private hospitals (that are better equipped to treat burns due to their advanced equipment) refuse or prolong providing treatment or try and work their way around it. This compromises the injuries of the victim and is a reflection of these private hospitals not being reimbursed by our very government that has made a law swearing to do so.

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 The Aftermath- Free and immediate medical attention

In the immediate aftermath of an acid attack, the constitutional laws recognizes that one has the right to prompt and free medical attention from the nearest hospital facility. Under the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013 that recognized acid attacks as a criminal offence, section 357C was inserted as a part of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 which pertains to the treatment for survivors, clearly stating,

“All hospitals, public or private, whether run by the Central Government, the State Government, Local Bodies or any other person, shall immediately provide the first aid or medical treatment, free of cost, to the victims of any offence covered under Section 326 A, 376, 376A, 376B, 376C, 376D or Section 376E of the Indian Penal Code and shall immediately inform the police of such incident.”

In instances where a hospital is not equipped to handle immediate medical treatment, it is obliged to initiate an immediate transfer of the patient to a facility that can ensure medical treatment of the victim. This scheme ensures that a survivor of an acid attack is ensured proper treatment via a private or government hospital in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

While this law guarantees a promise for instantaneous medical care for a survivor, there are many cases where hospitals, especially private hospitals (that are better equipped to treat burns due to their advanced equipment) refuse or prolong providing treatment or try and work their way around it. This compromises the injuries of the victim and is a reflection of these private hospitals not being reimbursed by our very government that has made a law swearing to do so.

Compensating losses

The loss that an acid attack survivor incurs is one that cannot ever be fully compensated.However, taking note of the fact that survivors certainly require plastic surgeries and perhaps long-term medical care, the Supreme Court released an order on 18thJuly, 2013 that a victim is entitled to a minimum sum of Rs. 3 lakhs. This order was prepared by the National Legal Services Authority, in a monetary relief grant titled “Compensation Scheme for Women Victims/Survivors of Sexual Assault and other crimes” which enables a survivor to approach their respective state or legal authorities for instantaneous compensation, immediately after the incident has taken place. This scheme handled by the State Legal Service Authority sets up and manages the compensation funds for survivors. A survivor has the right to demand a sum of Rs. 1 lakh within the first 15 days of the attack and  the rest in installments thereafter. It is also important to note that a compensation is guaranteed irrespective of the court verdict of the accused- it does not matter whether the accused offender of the acid attack is acquitted or convicted.

 While the minimum amount of compensation remains consistent, the maximum cap on compensating the victim is up to the discretion of each individual state government.
The idea of compensation is that while monetary relief cannot erase the atrocities of the attack on these survivors, it can give them the bare minimum to ensure a basic standard of living. However, multiple talks and interviews with acid attack survivors reveal that since laws around free medical care are not implemented properly, most if not all of the compensation money goes into medical treatments. It is crucial to understand that medical expenses and compensation are different rights that can be exercised by  survivor. Medical care is supposed to be granted for free for the survivor while the compensation is to help them live a comfortable life. However, the poor implementation of Section 357C created further problems with Compensation as well.

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A step towards betterment: The Disability Act

Article 41 of the Indian Constitution states that “the State shall within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provision for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, and in other cases of undeserved want.” Therefore, after countless petitions that argues the marginalization and discrimination against acid attack survivors, they stand acknowledged as disabled persons today.

The Rights of Persons With Disabilities, 2016 now includes acid attack victims, recognizing that they’re a marginalised population that tend to face discrimination as a consequence of physical disfiguration, social exclusion and other impairments caused by their horrific involvement in acid attacks. Hence, the Act now recognizes these survivors as physically disabled. This implementation means they can gain access to employment in the government and education sectors through disability quotas, that serves as an important step in rebuilding their lives. Acid attack survivors now have a quota in central government jobs, according to the order by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) on 28th January, 2018.

As much as the Disability Act is a step forward to secure employment  for survivors who are unfairly discriminated, one must tread with caution by acknowledging thatin the case of an acid attack survivor,one is not born with a disability, butis forcibly made disable; therefore it can be offensive to describe a survivor as disabled at times.

In conclusion, It is of paramount importance to be aware of these details, as they serve as a significant start to rebuildingthe life of a survivor and helping them in recovering from the brutal injustice of their unjust past with a promise to launch them to a just future.However, it is not enough for us to know about the existence of these rights, it is also imperative to fight for their proper and impartial implementation nation-wide.

A step towards betterment: The Disability Act

Article 41 of the Indian Constitution states that “the State shall within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provision for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, and in other cases of undeserved want.” Therefore, after countless petitions that argues the marginalization and discrimination against acid attack survivors, they stand acknowledged as disabled persons today.

The Rights of Persons With Disabilities, 2016 now includes acid attack victims, recognizing that they’re a marginalised population that tend to face discrimination as a consequence of physical disfiguration, social exclusion and other impairments caused by their horrific involvement in acid attacks. Hence, the Act now recognizes these survivors as physically disabled. This implementation means they can gain access to employment in the government and education sectors through disability quotas, that serves as an important step in rebuilding their lives. Acid attack survivors now have a quota in central government jobs, according to the order by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) on 28th January, 2018.

As much as the Disability Act is a step forward to secure employment  for survivors who are unfairly discriminated, one must tread with caution by acknowledging thatin the case of an acid attack survivor,one is not born with a disability, butis forcibly made disable; therefore it can be offensive to describe a survivor as disabled at times.

In conclusion, It is of paramount importance to be aware of these details, as they serve as a significant start to rebuildingthe life of a survivor and helping them in recovering from the brutal injustice of their unjust past with a promise to launch them to a just future.However, it is not enough for us to know about the existence of these rights, it is also imperative to fight for their proper and impartial implementation nation-wide.

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Works Cited

“The Most Grievous Assault Acid Attack Is Common in India Why.” Legal Service India – Law, Lawyers and Legal Resources, www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-196-the-most-grievous-assault-acid-attack-is-common-in-india-why.html.

“NALSA (Legal Services To The Victims OF Acid Attacks) Scheme”, National Legal Services Authority, https://himachal.nic.in/WriteReadData/l892s/240_l892s/1500444109.pdf.

Engineer, Rayomand. “Landmark Move: Acid Attack Victims Now Have a Quota in Central Government Jobs.” The Better India, 29 Jan. 2018, www.thebetterindia.com/129355/acid-attack-victims-quota-central-government-jobs/.