Activists say law should specifically look into treatment, rehabilitation of victims

The death of Vinodhini of complications from an acid attack, thrusts into sharp focus the desperate need to provide penal provisions in the law to handle perpetrators of acid attacks.

The Verma committee, constituted post the fatal rape of a young physiotherapy student in Delhi, recommended that acid attacks, and attempted acid attacks, be targeted separately as a criminal offence under the Indian Penal Code. Section 326a, an ordinance today, punishes specifically those who are responsible for acid attacks on women. Justice Verma also suggested that the perpetrator compensate the victim to take care of medical expenses following the acid attack.

Section 326a of the IPC has clearly defined an "acid" attack as: permanent or temporary deformity, maiming burning or disfiguring or disabling any part or parts of the body of a person. It goes on to specify: “any person who commits the offence… shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both."

Social activists have now called upon the government to make into law, a draft proposal made by the National Commission of Women (Prevention of offences (by Acids) Act 2008). In addition to classifying an acid attack as a separate and most heinous form of offence, the proposed law also intends to make provisions to: assist the victim of an acid attack by way of providing for her medical treatment services and also to provide social and psychological support; to provide legal support to survivors; to arrange rehabilitation mechanisms/schemes taking into account the specific needs of the victim and regulation and control of acid and other corrosive substances.

A. Kathir, executive director of non-governmental organisation Evidence, says the NCW Draft bill must be passed by the government immediately. It not only seeks to make acid attacks a very grave offence, but also provides support for the victim provides a rounded perspective. The All India Democratic Women’s’ Association has also urged that the law be implemented and asked for the incorporation of to incorporate Justice Verma’s suggestion of collecting compensation from the perpetrator.

Perhaps this will come through sooner, rather than later. Not more than a week ago, the Supreme Court directed the Centre to address the menace of acid attacks and frame, with the participation of States, a new law for treatment and compensation for victims.

Unfortunately, not soon enough for Vinodhini.

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