Around 93.8 per cent of the acid attack cases were pending in courts at the end of 2018 and only 31 cases were disposed off that year, the latest report of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has revealed.
The alarming rate of pendency in such sensitive cases has raised a question on the pace of judicial proceedings in the country.
Chhapaak, a Hindi film directed by Meghna Gulzar, starring Deepika Padukone as an acid attack victim, released on Friday, brings about this issue. As Laxmi Agarwal, the protagonist, she is a symbolic example of what the acid victims have to go through while seeking justice.
The disposal of cases of acid attacks against women in courts shows that 523 cases were under trial at the end of 2018. Of these, 491 (or 93.8 per cent) were pending in courts, and it includes the pendency of 397 cases (or 75 per cent) from the previous year.
Out of 287 cases registered with cops in 2018, only 126 made it to trials that year. A total of 30 persons have been convicted in 19 cases while 16 people have been acquitted in 12 cases the same year. Surprisingly, five of the convicts turned out to be women themselves.
The NCRB report highlights the fact that there has been no major change in the number of cases in the last three years. The number of cases (including attempt to acid attack) was 283 in 2016 which rose to 309 in 2017. The latest figure for 2018 has been 287 attacks across the country.
Out of 287 cases, 58.5 percent of cases fall under crime against women. These cases involve 177 women victims. The cases of acid attack and the attempt to acid attack are registered under section 326(a) and 326(b) of the Indian Penal Code, respectively.
West Bengal (62) registered the maximum number of cases of attacks followed by Uttar Pradesh (44) in 2018. In terms of cities, Delhi turned out to be most cruel, with 22 cases of acid attack.
Northeastern states have registered the minimum number of cases. In some states, the number is even zero such as Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir as well Jharkhand along with five northeastern states — Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Sikkim. 14 out of 31 states and UTs have recorded zero incidents. All the Union territories, except for Delhi have recorded zero cases of either attack or even an attempt to attack.
Among the 19 metropolitan cities — having a population of more than 2 million – Delhi, has a maximum of 14 cases against women in a year, followed by Hyderabad and Ahmedabad with six cases each. Other metropolitans account for the rest of the 13 cases of attack or attempt to attack.
An acid attack survivor from Chennai, recalled that her father who had thrown acid on her and her mother, walked out of jail within six months despite being given 23 years’ imprisonment. Fighting this in High Court could take years, she said.
She noted that although initially it seemed like the cops and the legal system were helping her, as the case duration extended, everything seemed to go out of hand.
Noting that she had heard about several cases of acid attack, she said, “If one of these criminals had gotten severe punishment right at the beginning, other people would hesitate to do the same mistake.”