The Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed the Senior Superintendents of Police across Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh to complete the investigation in acid attack, sexual harassment and stalking cases within seven days and put up the case challan before the competent criminal courts within next seven days.
The investigation will be completed within the supervision of a gazetted officer in the cases registered under Sections 326A (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid, etc), 326B (voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid, etc), 354A (sexual harassment), 354B (assault or use of criminal force to a woman with intent to disrobe), 354C (voyeurism) and 354D (stalking) of Indian Penal Code. The gazetted officer will be personally held liable in case of defective investigation, the court has said.
“Every person has a right to life including the right to live free from any kind of mental, physical and psychological torture, be it stalking, sexual harassment, or burning. The victim of acid burns is stigmatized and traumatized,” the division bench of Justices Rajiv Sharma and Harinder Singh Sindhu said in an order passed on Tuesday. “Every citizen must remember that something, which has happened to acid attack victim may happen with his family members,” the bench said.
Observing that the cases pertaining to sexual harassment, stalking, voyeurism and acid burning are required to be fast tracked, the bench has also directed the trial courts throughout the two states and Union Territory to hear such cases on day to day basis and conclude the trial within three months. Otherwise, the bench said, the trial court will have to record “cogent and sufficient” reasons for the delay. It has also directed the lower courts to show due sensitivity in acid attack cases.
The bench further directed the state governments and Chandigarh Administration to provide protection to the eye-witnesses during the pendency of trial in the FIRs registered under sections of law pertaining to offences like acid attack, sexual harassment, voyeurism, assault on woman with intent to disrobe and stalking.
Directing Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh to include the victims of acid attack in category of physically challenged persons for the purpose of reservation in public employment, the bench also asked the authorities to ensure to provide within next three months specialized wards in every district to those with burn injuries to avoid infection. The authorities in the region have also been directed to provide free medical aid to the victims of acid attacks till their full recovery.
The two state governments and the UT Administration have also been directed by the court to pay Rs 1 lakh to acid attack victims immediately after the registration of the FIR and a sum of Rs 7,000 per month to the victims who have received third/fourth-degree burn injuries.
“The states of Haryana and Punjab as well as the Union Territory of Chandigarh are also directed to pay a sum of Rs 5,000 per month, in those cases, where the burns injuries are of first degree and second degree. The victims are also entitled to a sum of Rs 3,00,000 as ordered by their Lordships of the Hon’ble Supreme Court,” the order reads.