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Court Case: Medical care of sexual assault victims

Acid Attack Cases: Court's Role in Bail Vital
By Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma
Posted: 2023-09-15T19:24:35Z

Case Details: Vaibhav Kumar v. State, Bail Application No. 2527/2023, High Court of Delhi, dated 04.09.2023

The cases of acid attack are emblematic of sheer brutality and far-reaching consequences. These heinous crimes reverberate through communities, causing profound shockwaves. Therefore, the role of a court in determining whether to grant or deny bail to the accused is a matter of paramount significance.

This case highlights the appalling nature of acid attacks, where a lives of victims are irrevocably marred, often in broad daylight and within densely populated areas. Such acts often stem from the victim's rejection of unwelcome advances, and they not only inflict grave psychological trauma on the victim but also stir intense emotions within society. In such cases, the Court must assume its role as a guardian of justice and uphold the principles of fairness and equity. It is crucial to note that such attacks often result in life-altering injuries, causing not only physical pain but also emotional scars that may never heal.

In the present case, the bail was denied to an individual, accused of perpetrating an acid attack on a 30-year-old senior resident doctor, allegedly in collusion with a doctor with whom he worked as a compounder. The prosecution's case was that the co-accused doctor, nursing one-sided affection for the victim, masterminded the entire crime as an act of vengeance after his marriage proposal was rejected and his advances were spurned by the victim.

While observing the role of accused who had sought bail from the Court, it was observed that “from the point of making the plan by co-accused Dr. Ashok, to the point of carrying out rehearsals by using water in syringes provided by the co-accused, to doing reki of the area and route which was taken by the victim, to identification of the victim by the juveniles, and the present accused throwing acid and procuring the same, coordinating between the juveniles and the co-accused, to disposing of the articles snatched from the victim by the co-accused(s), he has been a part of it all”. 

The records of the case revealed that the accused not only engaged juveniles to execute the heinous offence but was also intricately involved in every stage of the nefarious scheme. His involvement spanned from the initial planning orchestrated by co-accused, to the rehearsal stage which involved using water-filled syringes provided by the co-accused. He participated in reconnaissance of the area and the victim's route, identification of the victim by the juveniles, procuring and wielding the acid, coordinating with the juveniles and co-accused, and disposing of the victim's snatched possessions.

In response to the accused’s plea for bail, citing nine years of judicial custody and the delay in conclusion of trial, the Court framed a pivotal question: how to weigh the heinousness of the offence against the prolonged incarceration of the accused while considering grant of bail. The Court came to a conclusion that is has to uphold due process of law, procedural fairness, justice, and the protection of individual fundamental rights, even when grappling with the most repugnant offences. However, the Courts cannot turn a blind eye to the unspoken psychological anguish endured by the victim. This anguish, which will persist throughout her life, cannot be ignored. Additionally, the incident's impact, potentially instigating fear and insecurity among many girls in society, demands acknowledgment.

Though the judgment recognized the accused’s distress over extended incarceration, it also empathized with the victim's quest for justice. In exercising judicial discretion, the court cannot overlook the enduring trauma experienced by the victim, who, for a substantial part of her life, will wear black glasses to shield herself from prying eyes and incessant queries about the scars on her face, depriving her of the simple pleasure of leading a normal life.

It was observed that “while the accused may bemoan his long incarceration while the trial is concluding, he wants to come out of the jail to breath in fresh air and be the same person again, this Court while exercising judicial discretion cannot ignore that the victim has to wear black glasses, most of the time of her life as she did in the Court, lest questions or questioning eyes about the scar marks on her face again traumatize her every moment of life taking away the pleasure of leading a normal life in future”.

However, expressing dissatisfaction with the prolonged trial, spanning over nine years, the Court noted that justice would be best served by expediting the examination of the seven remaining witnesses. The court directed that this be conducted on a day-to-day basis to expedite the trial and conclude it within four months. 

In summation, the judgment underscores the Court's role in addressing the gravity of acid attack cases while upholding the rights of both the accused and the victim. It emphasizes the importance of expeditious trials and at the same time, stands in solidarity with the enduring trauma experienced by victims of such heinous crimes.

Link to the Judgment: