By: MUBASHIR HASSAN
LAHORE: A stricter legislation to curb incidents of acid throwing on women is on the cards, as the offenders shall be awarded death penalty or rigorous imprisonment for life.
All offences committed under the proposed law shall be cognizable, non-compoundable and non-bailable. The proposed legislation also contains provisions to prevent the misuse of corrosive substance and provide treatment and rehabilitation to the victims of acid attack.
The Women Caucus in Punjab has submitted the draft bill in the Punjab Assembly Secretariat for legislation.
After its passage by the Assembly, this will result in perpetrators facing effective deterrent, victims accessing and obtaining justice, availing free medical and psycho-social rehabilitation services.
Even those making an attempt to commit this offence would be serve punishments. “Whoever attempts to commit an offence of acid attack or burn attack shall be punished with imprisonment of either description which may extend to 7 years but shall not be less than 3 years and also with fine not exceeding 100,000 rupees”, reads one of the clauses of the draft bill.
The abettors would also not escape the punishment. They would be liable to same punishment under this law.
“Hundreds of women and children and a few men fall victim to this horrendous crime, with no possibility of seeking justice and support from the government. Although the crime has been criminalised through an amendment in PPC, a more comprehensive legislation is needed to address the difficulties and gaps in the investigation and to provide for treatment and rehabilitation of the victims,” Azma Zahid Bokhari, Coordinator of Women Caucus, told The Nation.
She affirmed it was need of the hour to redress this crime, which constitutes one of the most heinous violations of human rights.
“We need to ensure the protection and dignified life of Pakistani citizens within the spirit of the international Conventions signed and ratified by the Pakistani state”, Azma added. The draft law also makes it binding on the government to provide free medical treatment and rehabilitation to acid and burn victims.
The government shall establish one or more than one rehabilitation centres for the burn victims and the medical treatment shall include surgeries or associated procedures, nursing care, physiotherapy, psychological support, psychotherapy etc.
Moreover, the victims of acid attack shall be deemed to be persons with disability and would be entitled to benefits and all measures prescribed under “The Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance, 1981”.
The court may, at any stage of the trial, on an application by the victim, direct the government to pay interim monetary relief to the victim to meet the expenses incurred and losses suffered by him/her.
The investigation under this law must be completed by a Police Officer in charge of investigation not below the rank of inspector/SHO within 14 days of being informed or registration of FIR. But the court may extend the period to 60 days in certain cases.
“If the court finds during the course of investigation or at the conclusion of the trial that the investigating officer, or other concerned officers have failed to carry out the investigation with due diligence or have failed to pursue the case properly and are in breach of their duties, the court shall punish such officer(s) with imprisonment which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both by resorting to summary proceedings”, says one of the provisions.
The projected legislation also provides for protection of witnesses.
“The court, trying an offence under this Act may, on application by a witness in any proceedings before it or by the public prosecutor in relation to such witness or on its own motion, give such directions as it may deem fit, for the protection of witness or witnesses, as the case may be”.
To implement the objectives of this law, the Provincial Government shall establish “Acid and Burn Crime Monitoring Board”, consisting of the government officials keeping in view that there is at least 33 per cent women representation.
The Board will ensure and monitor effective implementation of this law and formulate policies of treatment, rehabilitation and to provide legal aid to the acid and burn victims and take necessary steps to implement and monitor these policies;
Under the law, it would also be the responsibility of the Provincial Government to undertake responsibility for providing free shelter, sustenance and basic needs till such time that the victim is financially independent.
Where acid and burn victim has dependants, the Board shall undertake the responsibility of providing sustenance or basic needs for such dependents till such time any dependant becomes financially independent and able to support the family.
It shall also be the duty of Provincial Government to ensure that acid and burn victim is protected from intimidation and/or harassment during course of his/her legal action.