New Delhi: Two masked men on a bike flung acid on a 17-year-old girl minutes after she left her west Delhi home for school on Wednesday, leaving her with serious injuries, and as outrage spread over the attack many also raised questions over the availability of acid in markets despite a ban.
Three people — prime accused Sachin Arora and his two friends Harshit Aggarwal (19) and Virender Singh (22) — have been arrested, police said.
Special Commissioner of Police, Law and Order, Sagar Preet Hooda told a press conference that the acid used in the attack was procured through an e-commerce portal and payment was made by Arora through an e-wallet.
In a statement, police said on the basis of technical evidence, it was found that the acid was procured on Flipkart. There was no immediate response from the e-commerce portal.
During interrogation, it was learnt that Arora and the victim were friends till September. They fell out and this led to the accused to attack her, Hooda said, adding that he lived in the girl’s neighbourhood. .
The incident was caught on a CCTV camera and the class 12 student could be seen shaking vigorously after the attack that left her with burns to her face, police said, adding that the teen was with her younger sister when the attack took place at Mohan Garden near Uttam Nagar.
The girl has suffered eight percent facial burns and her eyes have also been affected, the special police commissioner said, adding that she has been admitted to the Safdarjung Hospital’s burn ICU ward and is stable.
Police said prima facie, it appears that nitric acid was used in the attack. Samples have been sent for forensic examination, they said.
List of acid attacks in Delhi
Delhi reported 11 acid attack cases in 2018 and 10 in 2019. The national capital saw only two cases in 2020, when the country was under a lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak.
In India, 228 cases were reported in 2018, followed by 249 the next year and 182 in 2020, according to data.
Special Police Commissioner Hooda said Arora and Aggarwal were on the motorcycle and Singh aided them in the crime. Before the incident, Singh took Arora’s scooty and mobile phone to another location to create an alibi and mislead investigaters, the officer said. Hooda added that following Arora’s arrest, police zeroed in on Aggarwal.
Waiting outside the Safdarjung Hospital ICU ward, her father told reporters that her sister was with her at the time.
“My daughter left home at 7.30 am and as soon as she crossed the street, she was attacked. The incident happened within six to seven minutes of her leaving the house. My youngest daughter had gone along with her and then came running to us,” he said.
On whether she was being harassed or stalked, he said she had made no such complaint.
The incident was reported to the Mohan Garden Police Station around 9 am and before the Safdarjung Hospital, she was admitted Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Hospital, police said.
The girl’s mother got emotional while talking about her daughter and said, “I was not in a state to see her condition. She could not even open her eyes and was saying, ‘I am in pain’.”
Recapping the events of the morning, her uncle said she was walking towards the metro station with her sister when she was attacked.
The pain must have been excruciating and she ran towards nearby shops for help. One shopkeeper poured milk on her face to alleviate the agony, he said.
“They were waiting for one of their friends so that they could take the metro from Dwarka Mor and go to school. Suddenly, two men on a motorcycle arrived there and threw acid on her,” the uncle told reporters.
Women’s groups and others, including Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena and Delhi Commission for Women chief Swati Maliwal, raised questions on the availability of acid in markets despite a ban, and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal asked how the accused could have gathered so much courage.
Lieutenant Governor (LG) Saxena spoke to Delhi Police Commissioner Sanjay arora on the matter and has sought a detailed report, including as to how the acid used was procured despite a ban in the city, the handle Raj Niwas Delhi, run by the LG Secretariat, said on Twitter.
“The LG has instructed for swift and thorough investigation so as to ensure exemplary punishment to the guilty. The LG is in touch with hospital authorities and has urged them to ensure the best treatment. He has also assured all possible assistance to the victim and her family,” it tweeted.
Chief Minister Kejriwal said these kind of attacks cannot be “tolerated at all”. “The accused should be given the strictest punishment. The safety of every girl child in Delhi is important to us,” he said.
While the National Commission for Women has taken up the matter with the Delhi State Legal Services Authority for compensation to the victim and depute a team at the hospital, the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) has issued a notice to police.
SC banned retail acid sale in 2013
In a video uploaded on Twitter, DCW chief Maliwal said acid is as easy to get as vegetables despite a ban on its retail sale.
The Supreme Court had in 2013 banned over-the-counter sale of acid at retail outlets following an increase in the number of acid attacks and ordered a compensation of Rs 3 lakh to be paid by state governments to each acid attack victim.
She said the DCW may approach court for stricter enforcement of the ban on over-the-counter sale of acid. “It is unfortunate that despite repetitive recommendations of the commission, the retail sale of acid is not banned. Acid is being sold openly in markets, unchecked. In fact, it is as easy to obtain acid as it is to purchase vegetables!” Maliwal said.
“The government must ban retail sale of acid. Further, the Delhi Police must arrest the accused and investigate the case properly so that the strictest punishment can be given to them,” she said, adding that when a girl is attacked with acid, “her soul is scarred and her life is ruined”.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has questioned where the accused had procured the acid-like substance, as the same is banned for sale.
Requesting anonymity, a district magistrate said district authorities regulate the sale of acid. “We have a list of all authorised sellers of acid who provide us regular sale reports. Monitoring is also ensured by SDMs,” he said.
Claiming that there is no implementation of the ban, activist Yogita Bhayana, however, said the district authorities responsible for implementing the ban should be held accountable and suspended or fined if it is found that acid is being sold in their jurisdiction. “Only then a strong message will be sent out.”
NGO Brave Souls Foundation, which works with acid attack survivors, tweeted “It is a shame that acid attacks carry on till date. Despite PIL in Delhi High Court, we see no ban on acid sale and no strict action against attackers. Until when will this horrific act be ignored? How long will the government act blind?”.