The Bombay High Court recently held that an acid attack victim would be considered a person suffering from ‘specified disability’ and therefore entitled to additional compensation, rehabilitative measures and free medical treatment available for persons with disabilities as per the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (PWD) Act, 2016.
Observing this, the court directed the women and child development department of the Maharashtra government to pay within three months the compensation of Rs 10 lakh to a victim of corrosive substance attack.
The HC directed the government to deposit 75% of the compensation amount in a fixed deposit and the credit the remaining amount in a savings bank account of the victim.
The court said that the husband of the victim shall have no access to the fixed deposit and savings bank account of the petitioner.
The court also directed the Mumbai District Legal Services Authority (MDLSA) to assist the petitioner in availing of all other benefits including disability registration, further compensation under National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) Scheme, Prime Minister’s Relief Fund and Central Victim Compensation Fund Guidelines, 2016.
A division bench of Justice Ujjal Bhuyan and Madhav J Jamdar on October 4 was hearing a plea by a city resident having two sons, who was assaulted by her unemployed husband in November 2010 who threw a corrosive substance on her.
The sessions court in November 2011 convicted the husband of attempt to murder under IPC and sentenced him to rigorous imprisonment for 10 years. The conviction was later upheld by the HC in 2015.
The petitioner, through advocates Aditi Saxena and Rachita Padwal, approached the HC earlier this year, seeking compensation to treat her burn injuries on par with victims of acid attack under the Manodhairya Compensation Scheme of the Maharashtra government.
The state government lawyer submitted that the petitioner was not eligible for compensation under the 2017 scheme and can approach the MDLSA for relief.
After hearing submissions, the bench noted that the PWD Act, 2016 has defined ‘specified disability’, which includes physical disability, visual impairment, hearing impairment, etc. The HC noted that within the category of ‘physical disability’, ‘acid attack victim’ is included and defined as ‘person disfigured due to violent assaults by throwing of acid or similar corrosive substance’.
“Therefore, ‘an acid attack victim’ would be construed to be a person suffering from ‘specified disability’,” the bench held.
Disposing of the plea, the HC observed, “It is really an unfortunate case. Petitioner’s right to lead a meaningful life, a life with dignity, within the meaning of Article 21 of the Constitution of India remains a distant dream. In such circumstances, the writ court will be failing in its duty if it does not direct payment of just compensation to the petitioner as well as to direct rehabilitation measures for the petitioner.”