NEW DELHI: Concerned over the rise in acid attack incidents, the Supreme Court has observed that having stringent laws and enforcement agencies may not be sufficient unless deep-rooted gender bias is removed from the society.
The apex court said that administration of justice has to protect the society and it cannot altogether ignore the victim "who has died and cannot cry before it".
The observations came from a bench comprising Justices N V Ramana and P C Pant which partly set aside a Calcutta High Court verdict acquitting a man of the charges of murder in an acid attack case of 1998.
The bench, which wrote a separate but concurring verdict, sentenced convict Purnendu Kumar Patra to life term while holding him guilty of murder charges. It, however, upheld the acquittal of one of the co-accused in the case.
"Usually vitriol or acid attack has transformed itself as gender based violence. Acid attacks not only cause damage to the physical appearance of its victims but also cause immense psychological trauma, thereby becoming a hurdle in their overall development. Although we have acknowledged the seriousness of the acid attack when we amended our laws in 2013, yet the number of acid attacks are on the rise," Justice Ramana said in his separate judgement.
"Moreover this Court has been passing various orders to restrict the availability of corrosive substance in the market which is an effort to nip this social evil in the bud. It must be recognised that having stringent laws and enforcement agencies may not be sufficient unless deep-rooted gender bias is removed from the society," Justice Ramana said.
Justice Pant, writing the judgement for the bench, said it was almost impossible to come across a single case where the probe was "completely flawless or absolutely foolproof".
"The function of the criminal court is to find out the truth and it is not the correct approach to simply pick up the minor lapses of the investigation and acquit the accused, particularly when the ring of truth is undisturbed," the bench said.
"The administration of justice has to protect the society and it cannot ignore the victim altogether who has died and cannot cry before it. If the benefits of all kinds of doubts raised on behalf of the accused are accepted, it will result in deflecting the course of justice," the apex court said.
According to the prosecution, Patra had thrown acid on a woman for filing a rape case against him and another coaccused. The woman had succumbed to the burn injuries during her treatment in November 1998.