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HAWAL ACID ATTACK CASE | Court sentences convict to life imprisonment, imposes fine of `40 lakhs

‘Uncivilised and heartless crime committed on young, innocent defenseless girl’
12:12 AM Mar 07, 2024 IST | D A RASHID
hawal acid attack case   court sentences convict to life imprisonment  imposes fine of  40 lakhs
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Srinagar, Mar 6

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Observing that the brutal inhuman acid attack by the convict on the victim is an uncivilised and heartless crime committed on a young, innocent and defenseless girl, the Principal Sessions Court here on Wednesday awarded life imprisonment to a man besides imposing a fine of Rs 4o lakh on him for throwing acid on a woman at Hawal area here in February 2022.

“The chilling evening of 1st February 2022 became the darkest and blackest evening of her life when by the horrific act of the convict, all hopes and dreams of her future got lost,” Principal Sessions Judge Srinagar, Jawad Ahmad said, while handing out life sentence to Sajid Altaf Sheikh of Buchwara Dalgate who was convicted two days before for commission of offense under Indian Penal Code (IPC).

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The Court held that the evidence has proved that much before the occurrence, the convict had made the preparation for the act when he had obtained the acid from the accused Muhammad Saleem Kumar of Dalgate Srinagar on the pretext of erasing the name of the victim which he had written on his chest.

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The Court said it has also come in the evidence of the victim and her father that after the breakdown of the convict’s engagement with the victim, he once threatened the victim to disfigure her face if she did not agree to marry him. “This proves that it was a well thought of, well planned and an organised act of the convict.”

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The Court noted that the photographs of the victim before and after the incident speak of the extent of damage caused by the horrific act of the convict on the face of the victim by using the sulphuric acid which is a corrosive substance. “It has not only caused severe physical trauma to the victim but mental trauma as well. Despite 23 surgeries she has undergone as on date, the damage has not got repaired nor there are chances of its full repair,” the Court said in its 15-page judgment on the quantum of punishment which begins with the quote of William Penn: “The Jealous are troublesome to others, but a torment to themselves”.

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Before the decision on the quantum of punishment, the court heard Public Prosecutor (PP) Ajaz Hussain on behalf of the government, Advocate Mir Naveed Gul, Penal Lawyer assigned to the victim by DLSA Srinagar and Advocate Amir Masoodi for the convict.

The PP submitted that the barbaric act of the convict has crippled the life of the victim, who always needs the help of at least two helpers because one of her eyes is completely damaged and the eyesight of her other eye has also got impaired around 95 percent.

He submitted that the father of the victim is a poor person and for meeting the medical expenses of the victim, the mother of the victim has disposed of her house.

The acid attack not only causes physical damage to the victim but also adversely affects the victim economically, mentally, emotionally, and socially as well. “The face of the victim has got disfigured; moment by moment the disfigured face would remind the victim of the barbaric act of the convict. She has to live the rest of her life with this trauma.”

He submitted for the maximum punishment to the convict. The Penal lawyer, Advocate Mir Naveed Gul, who had been assigned to the victim from DLSA, Srinagar, submitted that the victim’s mother had to sell her house to meet the medical expenses of the victim. He submitted that as on date the victim has undergone 23 restorative surgeries at Chennai and her treatment is yet incomplete.

The victim, who was present, said that her left eye is completely damaged and has lost the eyesight of her left eye but she is a little bit able to see from her right eye. “Her both eyes are closed and she can’t independently stand up or walk and always needs the help of two-three persons”

She stated that as on this date she has undergone 23 surgeries and has incurred expenses more than Rs 48 lakhs and requires a lot of money for her further restorative treatment with no hope of restoration of her eyesight. “This barbaric attack has shuttered all her hopes and dreams which she had dreamt for her career.”

The victim was provided support in the court by one Sehar Nazir, another acid attack survivor. Sehar submitted with the permission of the court that she had passed through the phase with which the victim was presently going.

Counsel for the convict, Advocate Amir Masoodi submitted that the court has to look into the mitigating circumstances of the convict.

In response to the submission that the convict is young, a first offender so a lenient view may be taken while awarding sentence to him so that he is reformed and is brought back to society, the Court said: “If this argument is accepted then what would happen to the victim, a young girl who was possessing of a beautiful physique before the occurrence. She has now to carry the hideously disfigured face all along her life, who has lost hope forever to lead a normal life including the loss of chance of marriage etc., for none of her fault”.

“…….. the badly affected eyesight of her( victim’s) both eyes shall make her a prisoner in her own house. In such circumstances, no one can imagine the plight of the poor parents of the victim, every day they have to look at the mangled face of their daughter. They also have to live their life with this emotional trauma”, the court said.

“The present scars left on the face and psyche of the victim would serve as a haunting reminder of the brutal act to the victim having the effect of forever altering the trajectory of her life. When the loss and trauma suffered by the victim is compared with the mitigating circumstances and the chance of rehabilitation of the convict, the tangible loss and life-long emotional trauma suffered by the victim by the horrible act committed by the convict far out-weighs any hypothetical chance of rehabilitation of the convict”, the Court said,

“Keeping in view the plight of the victim, one would feel that the ancient theory of punishment vis. eye for eye would only meet the ends of justice in this case but, that is not permissible now in the civilised society like ours which is governed by the law”.

After hearing the parties the court concluded that the convict did not deserve leniency and no other punishment except the maximum punishment of life imprisonment prescribed under law for his act could do the real and complete justice to the victim.

The court accordingly, sentenced the convict to imprisonment for life and fine of Rs 40 lakhs for the commission of offence punishable under Section 326-A IPC read with Section 34 IPC. “In default of payment of fine, a warrant for levy shall be issued to the District Collector, Srinagar in terms of Section 421 (1) (b) of Cr.P.C authorising him to realize the amount of fine as arrears of land revenue from the movable or immovable property or both of the convict,” the Court said.

“As and when the fine is recovered from the convict, the same shall be paid to the victim in terms of proviso 2 to Section 326-A of IPC”.

In view of the huge amount the victim has incurred on her treatment and the amount which is required for her further treatment, the court recommended the case of the victim to the Member Secretary, J&K Legal Service Authority for awarding maximum compensation to the victim in terms of the J&K Victim Compensation Scheme, 2019.

The other accused namely Mohammad Saleem Kumar, who was convicted for the offence punishable under section 336 IPC was sentenced to three months imprisonment by court. The three-month punishment was set off from the period of detention he had undergone during the investigation and trial of the case.

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