LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is set to introduce the Acid and Burn Crime Act 2019 bill. The aim is propose the death penalty or rigorous life imprisonment for those who intentionally attack people with acid or inflict burn injuries.
Opposition MPA Hina Pervez Butt has prepared the bill and it will be submitted to the Punjab Assembly in the coming days. If such an act has resulted in the demise of a person, it was proposed that the perpetrator be punished with a death sentence or rigorous life imprisonment.
Section 10 of the existing act dictates those who carry out an acid or burn attack shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to seven years, but will not be less than three years. Also, the fine imposed would not exceed RS100,000.
Whoever aids, abets or colludes in acid or burn attacks, either individually or jointly, shall be liable to the punishment mentioned above. It was proposed that the investigation would be carried by an officer not below the rank of inspector/SHO.
The matter would also be probed within 14 days of the complaint or registration of the FIR. Under the law, the court will allow time, not exceeding 14 days, provided reasonable grounds exist for such an extension. Total time for investigation of acid or burn attacks shall not exceed 60 days and if it does, such a failure may be noted in the performance assessment of the presiding judge or the officer in charge of the investigation.
If the court finds that the investigation officer, or others involved, have failed to carry out the investigation with due diligence, the officers may be punished through imprisonment which may extend to two years and could be accompanied by a fine. It was also proposed that both may be imposed after referring to summary proceedings.
The act proposes daily hearings and the trial will be concluded within seven days. For protection, it was suggested in the bill that any person who threatened or otherwise harassed witnesses shall be guilty of an offence punishable by way of summary procedure. In case of such an event, such imprisonment may extend to two years.
Any person aggrieved by the order or judgment by a sessions or additional sessions trial may appeal to the high court within a period of 30 days. If the victim is a minor, the provincial government or Acid and Burn Monitoring Board would provide free shelter, sustenance and basic needs till such time that the victim is financially independent.
Talking to The Express Tribune, MPA Hina Pervez Butt said that women were over acid throwing and burn cases increasing by the year. Hundreds of women, children and a few men fall victim to this horrendous crime with little possibility to seek justice or support.
Although the offence has been criminalised through an amendment in the PPC, a more comprehensive legislation is needed to address the difficulties and gaps in the investigation
Due to socioeconomic circumstances, specific and comprehensive legislation is needed to allow victims to overcome the fear and stigma associated with such attacks. This will serve as an effective deterrent, the MPA proposed.