The district legal services authority (DLSA) has asked civil surgeon RC Bhalla to submit a compliance report, at the earliest, of its recent directions, whereby all government and private hospitals in the district were directed to ensure maximum publicity about free medical treatment of rape and acid attack victims.
In July, DLSA secretary Kapil Aggarwal specifically asked Bhalla to ensure setting up of publicity boards in every private as well as government hospital to inform people about the free treatment of such victims. The step was initiated in view of lack of public awareness about the facility that is being provided following the intervention of the Supreme Court and Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.
While talking to HT, Aggarwal said that it seemed his directions were not fully complied with as most hospitals have yet not voluntarily declared about the free treatment available to rape and acid attack victims, which is now mandatory under the act.
According to him, specific provisions have been added in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that deal with punishment in case of non-treatment of such victims. For instance, Section 166-B of the IPC states that whosoever being in charge of a hospital, public or private, contravenes the provisions of Section 357C of the Criminal Prodecure Code (CrPC), which ensures free medicinal treatment in sexual assault or rape cases, shall be punished with the imprisonment for a term that may be extended to one year, he added.
“I have again asked the district administration to ensure publicity boards in front of every hospital at the earliest. I also appeal to the people that if they recently come across a case where an acid attack or rape victim is deprived of free treatment, they must approach us,” he said.
When contacted, Bhalla said he would convene a meeting of all private and government hospitals in the first week of next month and tell them strictly to put the required boards on their premises.
Confusion over extent of free treatment
While the Supreme Court orders specify only “free treatment”, local government officials are confused about the extent of this free treatment, since incidents of acid attack generally require expensive plastic surgery due to defacement. A senior official said there were still no directions from the state government, as to whether the free treatment to be provided is basic treatment or includes some surgery. “We have sought immediate clarification on this issue, so that it can be forwarded to hospitals,” he said.