Despite SC Order, Acid Attack Survivors Left Without Compensation

Acid attack survivors continue to battle bureaucratic and legal hurdles for due compensation by state governments.

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Thirty five years ago, it was the month of May. Premlata remembers clearly the summer which changed her life forever.

Premlata, then 15, was at her father’s place in Delhi. Things were not going down well at her in-laws’ place, whom she suspected of running a prostitution racket from their home. It was for this reason that Premlata had started living with her father and mother.

As she lied down under the tree to get respite from heat, a man who was allegedly paid by her husband poured acid on Premlata.

“I had to go to the hospital for almost 3-4 years. There was no limit to expenses. We took around Rs 4 lakh to Rs 6 lakh as a loan then. The treatment is continuing till date.”
Premlata, Acid Attack Survivor
Premlata survived an acid attack in 1984. She has approached the court recently demanding compensation.
Premlata survived an acid attack in 1984. She has approached the court recently demanding compensation.
(Photo: Akanksha Kumar/ The Quint)

Even though Premlata’s husband was sentenced to jail for ten years, there was no mechanism of awarding compensation to acid attack survivors back then.

Her father who was a fruit seller exhausted all their resources in trying to arrange funds for Premlata’s treatment.

It was only in 2013 when the Supreme Court issued guidelines in Laxmi vs Union of India regarding compensation by state governments.

When Premlata approached the DSLSA (Delhi State Legal Services Authority), the nodal agency that assesses damages and decides the amount to be disbursed, she was told that hers is an ‘old’ case and no compensation can be given now.

“Even if the attack occurred in 1984, she will still be eligible for compensation merely for the fact that there was a failure of the state machinery.”
Harini Raghupathy, Lawyer for Premlata

A quarrel with her husband in 2002 over the decision to continue working took a dastardly turn for Shamima. She was attacked with acid by her husband who wanted her to quit the job at a garment manufacturing factory in Delhi.

Though an FIR was filed, following the pressure by her in-laws, Shamima decided to take back the case. She has also filled the form recently claiming compensation, hoping to support her family with the money.

“The house where we used to live has all my stuff locked inside as we couldn’t pay the rent. There were times when I used to think that perhaps dying is better than living a life like this.”
Shamima, Acid Attack Survivor

In 2019, Shamima lost her elder son to drug addiction. She continues to live with her mother and would like to start working as well. But the financial condition of the family is not good. Even purchasing a cylinder worth Rs 700 is tough. Shamima has also applied for disability pension which will ensure monthly allowance of Rs 3,000.

Shamima with her mother, Salia Mirza at their home in Delhi’s Vinod Nagar.
Shamima with her mother, Salia Mirza at their home in Delhi’s Vinod Nagar.
(Photo: Akanksha Kumar/ The Quint)

The cases of both Shamima and Premlata highlight the need for a proper rehabilitation plan for acid attack survivors. Due to lack of awareness survivors are approaching respective nodal agencies and courts now demanding that they be given due compensation.

Over the years, after the acid attack incident, while Premlata has undergone 13 reconstructive procedures, Shamima has had 4 operations just so that she can see from her left eye.

“Whether they are survivors prior to the 2013 (judgment) or after that, minimum compensation of Rs 3 lakh is mandatory. Problem is that of implementation on part of the Centre and state governments.”
Shaheen Malik, Anti-Acid Attack Activist

According to activists like Shaheen Malik, who has been helping acid attack survivors fight legal cases, compensation should include not just cost of recovery but also enable these survivors to move on in life.

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