The Supreme Court on Monday ordered all states and Union Territories to consider acid attack survivors as disabled people, a direction likely to help rehabilitate women who become victims of such attacks.
Once they are included in the disability list, the victims can benefit from several government schemes meant for physically handicapped people such as 3% reservation in government jobs.
“We direct all the States and Union Territories (UTs) to consider the plight of such victims and take appropriate steps with regard to inclusion of their names under the disability list,” a bench of Justices MY Eqbal and C Nagappan said as it ordered the Bihar government to pay Rs 10 lakh to an acid attack victim and also bear the cost of her reconstruction surgery, whatever the amount may be. An additional sum of Rs 3 lakh was ordered to be paid to the victim’s sister.
Reiterating the Supreme Court guidelines issued in Laxmi’s case, the bench fixed a month’s deadline for the state to pay Rs 5 lakh to the victim. The balance shall be paid within the next three months.
The present case was brought before the apex court by Bihar-based NGO Parivartan Kendra which complained the state had not adequately compensated the victims whom it represented. It also alleged that private hospitals were not providing free treatment to them, as directed by the Supreme Court in Laxmi’s case last year.
Last year, a bench headed by then Chief Justice RM Lodha had come to the aid of acid attack victims. It had banned off-the-counter acid sale across the country and asked all states and UTs to notify acid as a “scheduled substance” to stop its unregulated sale.
Private hospitals across the country were ordered on April 10 this year to extend free treatment, including medicines and expensive reconstruction surgeries, to victims. State governments and UTs were asked to ensure the victims are attended to immediately. Hospitals were told to provide a certificate or document confirming the status of such patients and enable them to access free treatment.
The court had also said its order should be sent to the chief secretaries of all states and UTs, who in turn, would ensure that it reached district magistrates for compliance and directed them to publicise it to ensure awareness among the people.
Commenting on Monday’s order, Laxmi, the acid attack survivor who spearheaded the battle for regulation of the sale of acid, said, “For us it is only an order, till it is implemented. The Supreme Court has always given us good orders but they get stuck in the implementation. It had ordered states to give Rs 3 lakh for medical expenses but that was implemented only after we sat on a hunger strike. Our problems need to be understood. We are not just handicapped, but victims of a crime.”