[dropcap]A[/dropcap]nkur Panwar, who was arrested nearly a year later after throwing the acid on young nurse Preeti Rathi, has been awarded death sentence by the Mumbai sessions court on Thursday. She was 23 at that time and had dreamt to achieve her goal. She hailed from Delhi and was planning to begin her nursing work at a naval hospital in Mumbai. Preeti had just reached the city after an overnight train journey with her father when Panwar tapped her on the shoulder, when she turned around; he threw acid at her and vanished. They were neighbours in Delhi. He was jealous of her success and frustrated by his family prodding him about being unemployed while lauding her success. So, he took the same train to Mumbai that the Rathis were on, attacked the young woman, and then boarded another train departing from Bandra Terminus. A special Mumbai court sentenced Ankur Panwar to death is the first time capital punishment has been awarded for a case involving acid attack. The case shook Mumbai and was one of the more sensational of hundreds of similar acid attacks on women. Acid attacks were made a separate class of crime the same year and the government moved to restrict the sale of acid. The saga never ends here. Men who cannot face rejection take ‘revenge’ by throwing acid on her face so that she should never be accepted by other and destroy her life. Men throw acid on those helpless victims with the intention of injuring or disfiguring her body, burn her face, smash her nose, melt her eyes, and walk away as happy man. What an irony, do you really have any justification?
Such attacks are form of violent assault with the intention to disfigure, maim, torture, or kill. Perpetrators of these attacks throw acid at their victims, usually at their faces, burning them, and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the bones. The long term consequences of these attacks include blindness, as well as permanent scarring of the face and body, along with far-reaching social, psychological, and economic difficulties. In India, such incidences have happened frequently. Just for denial or refusal to male advances, many girls had to suffer such attacks. Acid throwing is the most vicious form of crime in the society. The horrific act of attacking people with acid has been taking place across different parts of the country. Man has chosen an alternative form of action to exploit the life of women. Hydrochloric acid and Sulphuric acid which are easily available in the market are used for acid attack which melts the skin and even bones of the victim. This makes the life of the sufferers miserable.
Although acid attacks occur across the world, including Europe and the United States, this type of violence is mainly rigorous in South Asia. After acid attack, the girls are going through lifelong bodily disfigurement. Moreover, there is a high survival rate amongst victims of acid attacks. Consequently, the victim is faced with physical challenges, which require long-term surgical treatment, as well as psychological challenges, which require in-depth intervention from psychologists and counsellors at each stage of physical recovery. These far-reaching effects on their lives impact their psychological, social and economic viability in communities. One study showed that the acid attack victims reported higher levels of anxiety, depression due to one’s concern for their appearance.
The year 2014 saw a never-before 309 acid attack incidents being reported from across the country. Almost, this is 300 per cent more than the average number of such cases witnessed during the preceding three years. The years 2011, 2012 and 2013 witnessed 83, 85 and 66 cases being reported respectively, but this number shot up to 309 in 2014 – almost four times the average number of acid attack cases in the preceding years. The alarming statistics came to light following a meeting convened by the Ministry of Home Affairs on March 14, where representatives from the Centre and state governments adduced the data for a compilation, with the aid of the National Crime Records Bureau.
However, Preeti Rathi case is the first incidence where accused was found guilty and death penalty was awarded to him.
Presently, an acid attack survivor gets Rs. 3 lakhs as compensation from the government. The amount is far too less for a survivor to undergo corrective surgeries. “At least 6-8 surgeries are required for a person to restore the face back to a reasonable level of function and aesthetic appeal. But the cost of even a single surgery is too expensive for many families in India as most of the victims are mostly belong to middle or lower class. The government compensation is nothing compared to total cost of the treatment. Most of the victims don’t even receive the help on time. Some receive help in parts. Post face correction, the victim needs lots of strength to survive further.
There were no specific laws in India to deal with such cases of acid attack. The Section 326 of the Indian Penal Code which deals with voluntarily Causing Grievous Hurt by Dangerous Weapons or Means was not so effective in dealing with this heinous form of crime because it does not include acid attack. The eighteenth law commission of India which was headed by Justice A.R. Lakshmanan then proposed a new section 326A and 326B in the India Penal Code and section 114B in the Indian Evidence Act. The scope of the definition of section 326 is very narrow but it does not deal adequately with the issue of acid attack because, it does not cover the various kinds of injuries inflicted because of an acid attack. The section does not cover the act of administering acid attack, i.e. planning it. The section does not punish the intentional act of throwing of acid if no injuries occur.
This is the biggest setback in our legal system and needs amendments by our honourable lawmakers.
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