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300 acid attack victims awaiting more than Rs.90 million in compensation

The government hasn’t setup any statutory board to cater to the victims in order to provide compensations, said victims and activists

By Koustav Das

BANGALORE (April 2)— More than 300 acid attacks victims are yet to receive around Rs.94 crores as compensation after the Supreme Court passed a directive last year ordering the both the Central and State governments to compensate for victims of acid attacks.

The facts were first revealed by Paltan—an initiative taken up by Stop Acid Attacks (SAA), which is a campaign against acid violence.

According to data furnished on the website, there are 314 victims of acid attack who haven’t received any compensation even after the Law Commission of India included acid attacks as a “serious offence” under the Indian Penal Code

Aseem Trivedi, a prominent cartoonist and member of SAA, said, “Although, the Supreme Court has introduced laws in favour of acid victims, we also need a long term rehabilitation programme for the victims.”

“We are always in constant contact with the government and we are trying to put forward our consultation regarding treatment of acid victims”, he added.

On July 2014, the Supreme Court chalked out a plan to provide monetary compensation of Rs.3 lakhs for each survivor of acid attack, out of which Rs.1 lakhs has to be paid to the victims by the state governments within 15 days of notification.

Courtesy: Stop Acid Attacks

Acid attacks were previously booked under Section 326 of the Indian Penal Code that deals with causing grievous hurt by throwing of a corrosive substance etc.

Punishment for an acid attack was strengthened by including a non-bailable imprisonment of 10 years expandable up to life and fine of Rs.5 lakhs after a petition was filed by ‘Campaign and Struggle against Acid Attack on Women’ for appropriate rehabilitation of acid attack victims.

Members of SAA pointed out that the scope of the law was “shallow and didn’t fully deal with the issue” since it failed to cover and categorise the numerous kinds of injuries inflicted to victims.

According to an SAA member, Abhilash Shukla, there are no separate charges booked for criminal conspiracy and section 326 didn’t have any guidelines for awarding proper compensation to the victim.

 “This is one of the main reasons why databases for acid attacks are weak in India. The data available in government offices aren’t accurate,” Shukla said.

‘Compensations are not enough’

Mallige, an active member of Campaign and Struggle for Against Acid Attacks on Women (CSAAAW), while talking to The SoftCopy, said, “In Karnataka... so far it has not yet been implemented and the judgement given by Supreme Court was an interim judgement last year.”

Mallige approached departments like Women and Child development and Karnataka Rajya Mahila Ayogya and a few similar institutions, but these institutions were clueless about the SC’s directive.

Anita D’souza, Joint Director of Acid Survivors Foundation India (ASFI) is currently compiling a report on acid attacks in India said that she said had notified the government about the “difficulties faced by the victims during the recovery process”.

Acoording to Mallige, the Karnataka government has been oblivious even after the directive was issued by the SC.

 She said: “Not now, but from the very beginning, we have witnessed a lot of ignorance on part of the government in Karnataka... I don’t know about other states.”

She said that CSAAAW went to rural taluk’s in Karnataka to collect testimonies of victims who are currently fighting for their rights to receive compensation.

 ‘Government is ignorant’

 Mallige points out that the Supreme Court or Law Commission of India must specify the agency where the victims can demand compensations.

 The compensations are being withheld because “no department is willing to take the burden upon them.”

An acid attack survivor from Tumkur, Jayalakshmi, who is currently working with an NGO that supports acid attack victims, said, “I received only Rs.2 lakh in compensations from the Karnataka government after a lot of legal tussle. I did not even get medical assistance”

 A patient’s rights activist, Uttan Bandhopadhyay, said that the Supreme Court had given a very weak decision because it didn’t mention which department of the government an acid victim should approach to get compensation.

He said, “The Supreme court must give a strong decision that shall help acid attack victims in receiving their compensations.”

An advocate, Sheela Ramanathan, who has been fighting for acid victims and a member of CSAAAW, said, “Currently, the situation is bad because half of the victims don’t know whom to approach.”

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