In a judgment that, for the first time, convicted 25-year-old acid attacker Ankur Panwar to death, the special women’s court judge AS Shende has gone on to minutely examine each of the evidence put forth to call it among the “rarest of rare cases”.
Ankur, who had hurled acid on Delhi-based Preeti Rathi (23), was charged with murder after she succumbed to her injuries. He is the first such accused in the country to be sentenced to the gallows.
”The incident is extremely gruesome, revolting and horrifying,” noted the judgment and stressed on the need to send “A strong message… to the miscreants of such crime against women… that such crimes shall not be tolerated.”
The court went on to note, “If the rising trend towards such a crime is not checked at its inception, it will have monstrous effect on the society and soon it will spread.’ The judgment goes on to note the ‘anti-social nature of the crime” and noted that the accused had not simply thrown acid but “it also shows a heartless act committed in a systematically pre-planned manner.” This had forced the legislature to amend the law to introduce stringent punishment for causing grievous hurt or disfigurement by intentionally throwing acid.
The court also went to nullify the defence theory that Preeti had died because of medical negligence. The judgment notes that it was because of the kind of attack launched on Preeti that she lost her life, and not because of medical negligence.
Judge Shende, while awarding capital punishment, was of the opinion that “the height of brutality in acid attacks was more than those in cases of rape.”
Explaining the act of acid attack the judge opined, “Rape destroys the soul of the victim. But she can be kept in isolation, without disclosing her identity, and can be rehabilitated. But for an acid victim, she has to move around with their destroyed bodies.”
“Preeti survived for 30 days because she did not know how she looked, she was blind. She had no idea of the effect of the attack on her face. Survivors of acid attacks look like aliens, their own children can get scared of them. This is the kind of effect acid has on the body, and the person cannot live without their body,’ said judge Shende.
In May 2013, Panwar had hurled acid on Rathi, who suffered grievous injuries, and later died due to multiple organ failure. It was an act of revenge as Preeti had rejected his marriage proposal. Instead, she opted to join the Indian Navy as a nurse.