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'Compensation isn't the solution, punishment is'

Taking note of the incidence of acid attacks on women -- which has been on an alarming rise of late -- the Supreme Court yesterday ordered that victims be issued compensation of Rs 3 lakh each, of which Rs 1 lakh should be handed over within 15 days of the attack. 

In the judgment, the court also laid down that acid can only be sold to people of age 18 and above, and that shopkeepers have to submit details of their sales every three days -- they will have to keep a log of who buys acid and for what purpose.

Furthermore, the police should confiscate undeclared stock of acid or fine shopkeepers up to Rs 50,000, the court order said.

Responding to the court’s verdict, families of acid attack victims said in unison that a monetary allocation cannot compensate for the agony and humiliation the victim has to endure.

They recommended that the government devise stronger laws to deal with such inhuman crimes.

Preeti Rathi case
Speaking to MiD DAY, Amar Singh, the father of Preeti Rathi who died after an acid attack, expressed gratitude to the Supreme Court for the decision, but wondered when the compensatory amount would be issued to them. “After the death of my daughter, R R Patil had announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to our family, but we haven’t received a penny of it yet.”

Singh’s daughter was attacked at Bandra Terminus as soon as she alighted from the train that had brought her to the city from Delhi. The accused is yet to be identified. In course of the investigations, the police officials wrongly arrested two men. After struggling for her life for a month, Preethi breathed her last on June 2.

Singh added, “The compensation is secondary. There is a need to enforce a stringent act to deal with such heinous crimes. Also, the police should deal with it more seriously. In our case, when we lost faith in the local law enforcement machinery, we asked the CBI to investigate the case, as the man responsible for my daughter’s murder is still absconding.”

Speaking about the monetary compensation, he said, “Compensation is not the solution to every problem; punishment is. If the cops arrest the accused tomorrow, he should be given strict punishment, which will deter other offenders from committing similar crimes. In cases where the victims die after an attack, the accused should be given the death sentence.”

Ruchi Jain case
When she was only in Std VII, Ruchi Jain was attacked as a result of a ‘mistake,’ when the attacker wrongly identified her as the woman he wanted to disfigure.

Ruchi Jain

She said, “I was coming back from school and the accused started driving slowly towards me. I was attacked because the accused mistook me for someone else.” 

She added, “People do not respect me in society. They get up and go away when I sit next to them, as they are scared of looking at me and my burn marks. I am 30 now and no one is ready to marry me. People ask me questions which make me want to cry.”

Ruchi added, “A sum of Rs 3 lakh for victims like us is nothing, as I have spent more than Rs 50 lakh in order to rectify the burn marks, but even that did not make the marks go away completely.

Rs 3 lakh is what I spent on one operation and there were a lot of them. My father has been taking loans from people,” she said.

Another acid victim, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “The compensatory amount of Rs 3 lakh is nothing. Such money means nothing to victims of such attacks. Nothing will replace the pain and agony I went through during my operations and even after that. The attack leaves you half dead. I cannot express the ordeal I have been through in words.”

Mubiya Mandal case
Nerul resident Mubiya Mandal lost her eyesight and her entire face was disfigured after her husband Razzak Mandal (25), flung acid on her face in September last year.


Scarred for life: Mubiya Mandal (21) lost her eyesight after her husband Razzak (right) threw acid on her face in September last year

He fled after the attack and is still absconding.

Her father Saviddna said, “After I get the money from the government, which I hope will be soon, I will repay all the money that I had taken for my daughter’s operations as our family is very poor. I have already spent Rs 2.5 lakh and the doctors say that Rs 1 lakh more will be needed for the surgery. She has been in hospital for 11 months and will be there for four more months. The amount Rs 3 lakh is small, but still we are getting something.”

Reactions
It’s a good initiative. It will help victims start a new life. But the implementation of laws is also important. The existing laws for cases of rape and acid attack need to be stringently implemented.
-- Farhana Shah, Advocate

It is not a solution that will help stop the recurrence of such crimes. Though it is a good start for the acid victims, it may lead to an increase in the number of attack cases, for people who want to extract money from the government. There is a need for a proper machinery to stop such crimes.
-- Srikant Shivde, Advocate

Rs 3 lakh issued to these victims is nothing. Instead if the government manages to provide these victims with shops in which they can work and earn a livelihood, that would be great. The victims do not get any jobs. The other day I had gone to Carter Road in Bandra with some acid attack victims, and everyone closed their eyes or looked away. People cannot even look at them; how will they work with them?”
-- Neeta Tripathi, coordinator, Stop Acid Attack

It is a very good judgment, as it will help victims treat their burnt body parts. But arresting the accused is more important than compensation, as is ensuring that the accused is given harsh punishment.
-- Julio Ribeiro, former commissioner of police

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