Acid test

Acid attacks are a horrible and savage form of crime perpetrated against women and  the victims consider it worse than murder. Compared to other kinds of assaults on women, acid attacks are not very numerous but their impact on the victim is  much worse than that of many others. Over 150  cases were reported in the country between 2000 and 2010. There is an increase in the number of cases from year to year and  effective steps are needed to  prevent them through deterrence and with harsher punishment  for the offenders. This was emphasised by Supreme Court last week  while hearing a petition from a victim who wanted a new law or specific amendments of existing criminal laws  to deal with acid attacks, and assured provisions for rehabilitation and compensation. The petition of the victim, whose face and body were disfigured in an  attack, has been pending since 2006, and that is a sign of the sense of a seriousness with which such demands are considered.

The court was unhappy with the government for not  taking steps to regulate the sale of acid  and it wanted a comprehensive policy for the treatment, aftercare and  rehabilitation of victims and  compensation for them.  Thirteen states, including Karnataka,  have some schemes for payment of  compensation  for victims.  But the court has directed the Centre to convene a meeting of all states and UTs  to evolve a uniform policy and to discuss the need for a separate law. The meeting  will also study the possibility of banning the free sale of acid over the counter. The government’s submission that the recent ordinance on sex  crimes against women covered acid attacks also did not seem to satisfy the court.

It is the government’s responsibility to help the victims of acid attacks to put their difficult  lives together. They are physically and mentally maimed and shattered after the attack. They have to undergo long term treatment, including expensive reconstructive surgery, and most  cannot afford it. A few months ago a college student from Dhanbad,  Sonali  Mukherjee, rendered blind and living with ‘’half a face and half a life’’ after the attack on her, requested the government to fund her treatment or  give her permission for euthanasia. Her attackers had got away with minor punishment.  While the gruesome crime should receive strong punishment, the government and society should help and support the victims in every possible way.

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