Naila and her Journey to Seek Justice
By Sana Masood

Nov. 24, 2009

Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) has been working on acid violence issues since 2006. The ultimate goal of the organization is to eliminate acid violence from Pakistan. It provides medical, psycho-socio rehabilitation, legal and socio-economic rehabilitation to acid burn survivors. Till date, the organization has identified 276 acid attack cases, treated 74 patients and provided legal support in 23 cases.

Naila, an acid victim, was notified to ASF’s Nursing Care and Rehabilitation Unit at Islamabad in April 2007. She had undergone different kinds of medical treatments but was not operated before coming to ASF. By virtue of ASF’s medical support she underwent different surgeries and laser hair treatment, and she is also expected to undergo an eye surgery on December 05, 2009.

Belonging to Rafiqabad, District Layya, she became a victim of acid attack at the age of 13 when she was on her way back from a school function with her younger brother and three friends on August 14, 2003. She was attacked by her teacher’s friend, Irshad Hussain, because her parents refused a proposal from him, as she was too young to get married and because she wanted to continue her studies.

Soon after the incident, thanks to her family’s support Naila was determined to punish her perpetrator and filed her case in the court. She, with ASF’s Legal Cell’s support, managed to file an appeal of the judgment of the previous court (High Court) in the Supreme Court and this is the first time ever that an acid attack case has gone all the way up to Supreme Court.

The decisions from the two lower courts (Civil Court & Additional Sessions Court) have gone in Naila’s favour, with the accused Irshad Hussain convicted and sentenced for a period of twelve years and three months, and he was also liable to pay Rs.1, 257,016.16 as Arsh under section 324, 334, 337 (w) of Pakistan Penal Code. The amount was to be paid within three years in four equal installments from the date of final judgment.

This decision however was appealed by the accused in the Sessions Court, but it was dismissed and the Session Court upheld the previous judgment. The case then went to the High Court which directed the petitioner to pay 11, 19135.16/- within the period of two years in equal monthly installments and upon payment of this amount, the court directed the accused to be released from jail. Not only has the amount been reduced but the Judge has also ordered the release of the accused upon payment of the said amount, which is unfair and which denies Naila’s right to justice. This is why we (Acid Survivors Foundation) had decided to file an appeal of the High Court’s decision in the Supreme Court. Her case was contested by a renowned and competent lawyer, Advocate Zulfiqar Abbas Naqvi.

Luckily, on November 13 2009, as soon as her case was heard at the Supreme Court, within minutes, the case went in her favour. The court upheld the Sessions Court’s decision setting aside the High Court’s decision, granting twelve years and three months punishment along with a fine of twelve lacs Rupees to the accused.

Moreover, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry further took suo moto action in this case after reading the news article dated November 12, 2009, in the daily newspaper ‘The News’, and ordered the Advocate General Punjab to provide him with the details of this case. Subsequently, on November 20, 2009, after hearing the details of Naila’s case, the Chief Justice ordered that the Government must pass the Acid Crime Prevention Act which would specifically deal with acid attack cases in terms of prevention & punishment, and the Acid Control Act, to regulate the sale and purchase of acid, as done by Bangladesh. In addition, he has also asked the government to provide free medical treatment to these acid burn victims and help them in terms of provision of legal aid and rehabilitation facilities. He has appreciated the work of Acid Survivors Foundation for providing free medical treatment, psycho-socio rehabilitation, legal aid and assistance & socio-economic rehabilitation to the acid burn victims.

Getting justice from the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the highest judicial authority, has not only helped Naila to punish her perpetrator but has also served as a two edged sword: (1) has enabled other cases to be contested through an effective and efficient judicial process (2) potentially increased the punishment in such cases, preventing acid attacks in future and has demonstrated that Pakistan is now committed to fight for and protect acid survivors human rights.

In addition, this initiative taken by the Supreme Court provides a strong basis for advocating and lobbying for the need of laws dealing specifically with the issue of acid violence, the prevention of such crimes in future, and the need to regulate the sale & purchase of acid.

Sana Masood is the Legal Coordinator
of the UNDP Project, Acid Survivors Foundation in Islamabad, Pakistan

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