Madhya Pradesh HC awards Rs 4 lakh as compensation, Rs 3 lakh worth medical expenses to acid attack survivor
Yashoda Bai vs. State of Madhya Pradesh Acid attack can be defined as “the act of throwing acid or a similarly corrosive substance onto the body of another with the intention to disfigure, maim, torture, or kill”. The highest incidence of such attacks occurs in South Asia, wherein the number of cases reported in India is soaring with no end in sight. This article aims to shed light on one such incident in a sea of hundreds which if not controlled could rapidly go on to scar an entire nation. In this particular case, the petitioner is Yashoda Bai from Mathura, while the accused is Nepal Singh. The accused used to work with the petitioner and on several occasions had expressed his desire to enter into an illicit physical relationship with her, which had been promptly denied by the petitioner. On 18th October 2016, the petitioner had attempted to lodge an FIR against Nepal Singh on the grounds of threats, physical abuse at Badganga Police Station but instead the District Court Chairman (Respondent No. 7) lodged a Non-Cognizable Offence Report (NCR) due to which no action was taken against Nepal Singh. The attack occurred on 13th January 2017, around 8:10am, opposite Deepmala Dhaba on Sewar Road in Indore, when the petitioner and the accused were in the midst of a heated quarrel. The accused all of a sudden threw acid on the petitioner’s face and fled on his accomplice, Arun Khati’s bike. In the attack, the petitioner sustained grave burn injuries on her face, neck, head, ear, hand, leg, scalp and waist. She was immediately rushed to M.Y. Hospital, Indore, for treatment. On the same day, an FIR was lodged against the two accused namely, Nepal Singh and Arun Khati, under section 307, 326A, 34 of the Indian Penal Code. On being admitted to M.Y. Hospital, the petitioner was diagnosed with approximately 20% burn injuries but was not administered requisite medical attention by the hospital staff. Due to inefficient medical care, the petitioner developed puss in her scalp and holes in her right ear. In addition to improper medical care, she was discharged from the hospital on 3rd February 2017, even before she had completely recovered. The court directed that she be transferred to a private hospital (Bombay Hospital) for the remainder of the treatment which included cosmetic surgery, hair implant, treatment for disfigured fingers etc. The expenses incurred by the hospital, where the acid attack victim is undergoing treatment, would be compensated by the state government. In Laxmi vs Union of India, it was decided that a victim of acid attack should be given a compensation of Rs. 3 Lakhs, one third of which should be paid within 15 days and the rest within 2 months. In the instant case, the requisite amount was not paid to the petitioner within this time frame. The petitioner contended that as a result of the acid attack, she has been subjected to great mental and physical trauma due to which her confidence level was shattered and therefore, damages to the tune of Rs. 3 Lakh is not sufficient to cater to her loss. Since it is the responsibility of the State to prevent such crimes, the compensation amount must be higher. In light of the irreversible physical and mental agony suffered, the petitioner, Yashoda Bai, sought from the High Court of Madhya Pradesh Rs. 30 Lakhs in the form of damages, lifetime support for medical treatment and development of a comprehensive rehabilitation scheme by the respondents/state for acid attack survivors involving housing, education and employment. By the order dated 22nd November 2017, the Madhya Pradesh High Court has directed the Bombay Hospital to continue with the treatment of the petitioner (advanced surgery). In accordance with this order, submission of a compliance report is to be made within 10 days by the collector regarding the status of the payment of additional amount of Rs. 1 Lakh (Prime Minister’s Relief Fund). The latest order issued by the Madhya Pradesh High Court dated 15th May 2018, grants time (4 weeks) to obtain instructions as to the decision taken by the respondent No. 5 on the petitioner's application in pursuance to the previous order. This case is of great significance as it is the first case of its category in Madhya Pradesh wherein compensation amounting to Rs. 4,00,000 and medical expenses amounting to Rs. 3,00,000 have been awarded by the court. Moreover, the learned counsel of the petitioner has also raised the issue of providing employment to the acid attack victims in the public sector so as to cater to their future needs. The application for employment under the physically handicapped quota is still pending.