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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

treatment and payment of compensation to acid attack victims and to implement these directions

                                                                  REPORTABLE

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                         CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION

                       WRIT PETITION (C)NO.129 OF 2006

LAXMI                                  ...PETITIONER

                                   VERSUS

UNION OF INDIA & ORS.                        ...RESPONDENTS



                                  O R D E R


      Pursuant to our order dated 06.02.2015, the Ministry of  Home  Affairs
has filed an affidavit dated 8th April, 2015.
      We have heard learned counsel for the parties in considerable detail.
      A meeting was convened by  the  Secretary  in  the  Ministry  of  Home
Affairs, Government of India and the Secretary in  the  Ministry  of  Health
and   Family   Welfare,   Government   of   India   with   all   the   Chief
Secretaries/their  counterparts   in   the   States/Union   Territories   on
14.03.2015.
      From the affidavit, the provisional figures  for  2014  indicate  that
there were 282 acid attacks  in  all  the  States.   The  majority  of  acid
attacks were in the States of Uttar Pradesh (185), Madhya Pradesh  (53)  and
Gujarat (11).

      As far as the Union Territories  are  concerned,  Delhi  is  the  only
Union Territory where acid attacks have taken place and the total number  of
such attacks in the year 2014 provisionally is 27.
      In all, therefore, 309 acid attacks  are  said  to  have  taken  place
provisionally in the year 2014.
      As mentioned in our order dated 06.02.2015, with the amendment to  the
Indian Penal Code,  nothing  survives  in  the  first  prayer  made  by  the
petitioner.
      The second and third prayers relate to the cost of  treatment  of  the
acid attack victims and application of Section 357C of the Code of  Criminal
Procedure, 1973, which was inserted by an Amendment Act in 2013 with  effect
from 03.02.2013.
      In the meeting convened by the  Secretary  in  the  Ministry  of  Home
Affairs and the Secretary in the Ministry of Health      and Family  Welfare
on 14.03.2015, it has been noted  that  a  Victim  Compensation  Scheme  has
already been notified in  almost  all  the  States  and  Union  Territories.
However, we are told today that the  Victim  Compensation  Scheme  has  been
notified in all States and Union Territories.
      We have gone through the chart annexed along with the affidavit  filed
by the Ministry of Home Affairs and we  find  that  despite  the  directions
given by this Court in Laxmi Vs. Union of India  [(2014)  4  SCC  427],  the
minimum compensation of Rs.3,00,000/- (Rupees three  lakhs  only)  per  acid
attack victim has not been fixed in some of  the  States/Union  Territories.
In our opinion, it will be appropriate if the Member Secretary of the  State
Legal Services Authority takes up the issue with  the  State  Government  so
that the orders passed by this Court are complied  with  and  a  minimum  of
Rs.3,00,000/- (Rupees three lakhs only) is made available to each victim  of
acid attack.
      From the figures given above, we find that  the  amount  will  not  be
burdensome so far as the State Governments/Union Territories  are  concerned
and, therefore, we do not see any reason why the directions  given  by  this
Court should not be accepted  by  the  State  Governments/Union  Territories
since they do not involve any serious financial implication.
      We also direct the  Member  Secretary  of  the  State  Legal  Services
Authority to obtain a copy  of  the  Victim  Compensation  Scheme  from  the
concerned State/Union Territory and to give it wide and  adequate  publicity
in the State/Union  Territory  so  that  each  acid  attack  victim  in  the
States/Union Territories can take the benefit  of  the  Victim  Compensation
Scheme.
      Insofar as the proper treatment, aftercare and rehabilitation  of  the
victims of acid attack is concerned,  the  meeting  convened  on  14.03.2015
notes unanimously that full medical assistance should  be  provided  to  the
victims of acid attack and that private hospitals should also  provide  free
medical treatment to such victims.  It is noted that there  may  perhaps  be
some reluctance on the part  of  some  private  hospitals  to  provide  free
medical treatment and,  therefore,  the  concerned  officers  in  the  State
Governments should take up the matter with the  private  hospitals  so  that
they are also required to provide free medical treatment to the  victims  of
acid attack.
The decisions taken in the meeting read as follows:
The States/UTs will take a serious note of the  directions  of  the  Supreme
Court with regard to treatment and payment of compensation  to  acid  attack
victims and to implement these directions through  the  issue  of  requisite
orders/notifications.
The private hospitals will also be brought on board for compliance  and  the
States/UTs will use necessary means in this regard.
No hospital/clinic  should  refuse  treatment  citing  lack  of  specialized
facilities.
First-aid must be administered to the victim and  after  stabilization,  the
victim/patient could be  shifted  to  a  specialized  facility  for  further
treatment, wherever required.
Action may be taken against hospital/clinic for refusal to treat victims  of
acid attacks and other crimes in contravention of the provisions of  Section
357C of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
      We expect the authorities to comply with these decisions.
Although it is not made clear in the meeting held  on  14.03.2015,  what  we
understand by free medical treatment  is  not  only  provision  of  physical
treatment to the victim of acid attack but also availability  of  medicines,
bed and food in the concerned hospital.
      We, therefore, issue a  direction  that  the  State  Governments/Union
Territories should seriously discuss and take up the  matter  with  all  the
private hospitals in their respective State/Union Territory  to  the  effect
that the private hospitals should not refuse treatment to  victims  of  acid
attack and that full treatment should be provided to such victims  including
medicines, food, bedding and reconstructive surgeries.

      We also issue a direction that the hospital, where the  victim  of  an
acid attack is first treated, should give a certificate that the  individual
is a victim of an acid attack. This  certificate  may  be  utilized  by  the
victim for treatment and reconstructive surgeries or any other  scheme  that
the victim may be entitled  to  with  the  State  Government  or  the  Union
Territory, as the case may be.
      In the event of any specific complaint against  any  private  hospital
or government hospital, the acid  attack  victim  will,  of  course,  be  at
liberty to take further action.
      With regard to the banning of sale of  acid  across  the  counter,  we
direct the Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs and  Secretary  in  the
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to take up the matter with  the  State
Governments/Union Territories to ensure that an appropriate notification  to
this effect is issued within  a  period  of  three  months  from  today.  It
appears that some  States/Union  Territories  have  already  issued  such  a
notification, but, in our opinion, all States  and  Union  Territories  must
issue such a notification at the earliest.
      The final issue is with  regard  to  the  setting  up  of  a  Criminal
Injuries  Compensation  Board.  In  the  meeting  held  on  14.03.2015,  the
unanimous view was that since  the  District  Legal  Services  Authority  is
already  constituted  in  every  district  and  is  involved  in   providing
appropriate assistance relating to acid attack victims, perhaps it  may  not
be necessary to set up a separate Criminal Injuries Compensation  Board.  In
other words, a multiplicity of authorities need not be created.
      In our opinion, this view is quite reasonable. Therefore, in  case  of
any compensation claim made by any acid attack victim, the  matter  will  be
taken up by the District Legal Services Authority, which  will  include  the
District Judge and such other co-opted persons who the District Judge  feels
will  be  of  assistance,  particularly   the   District   Magistrate,   the
Superintendent of Police and the Civil Surgeon or the Chief Medical  Officer
of that District or their nominee. This body will function as  the  Criminal
Injuries Compensation Board for all purposes.
      A copy of this order be sent to  learned  counsel  appearing  for  the
Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Secretary in the  Ministry
of Health and Family Welfare for onward transmission and compliance  to  the
Chief  Secretary  or  their  counterparts  in  all  the  States  and   Union
Territories.
      The Chief Secretary will ensure that the order  is  sent  to  all  the
District Magistrates and due publicity is given to the order of this Court.
A copy of this order should also be sent to the Member  Secretary  of  NALSA
for onward transmission and compliance to the Member Secretary of the  State
Legal Services Authority in  all  the  States  and  Union  Territories.  The
Member Secretary of the State Legal Services Authority will ensure  that  it
is forwarded to  the  Member  Secretary  of  each  District  Legal  Services
Authority who will ensure that due publicity is given to the order  of  this
Court.
The writ petition is disposed of in the above terms.

                                             .............................J.
                                   (MADAN B. LOKUR)

                                             .............................J.
                                   (UDAY UMESH LALIT)
NEW DELHI
APRIL 10, 2015



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