Chennai, Feb. 12: A 23-year-old woman who was attacked with acid last Diwali by a spurned admirer died in a Chennai hospital today of a cardiac arrest after a three-month battle.
Vinodhini had lost vision in both eyes and suffered extensive burns on her face and neck after Suresh flung acid on her at a bus terminus in Karaikal, her hometown in Puducherry, 350km from here. A B.Tech, she had gone home from Chennai the same day after a successful job interview.
Suresh and three friends who were his accomplices in crime are in jail awaiting the framing of charges. Suresh is reported to be a construction worker and a neighbour of Vinodhini's.
Under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013, which has stiffened laws on sex crimes against women, any person who voluntarily burns, maims, disfigures or disables another ' partially or permanently ' by use of acid will be jailed for a term not less than 10 years but which may extend to life.
A fine up to Rs 10 lakh will also be imposed, provided it is given to the person on whom acid was thrown or to whom acid was administered.
Plastic surgeon V. Jayaraman, who treated Vinodhini in Chennai till the end, said she had generally been responding to treatment but there was a sudden setback today.
"We did our best, but she had a cardiac arrest. We tried to revive her twice but the extensive damage to her respiratory tract affected her breathing," he said
Immediately after the November 14 attack, Vinodhini was rushed to Puducherry's Jawaharlal Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences. She was later shifted to a private hospital in Chennai. She had several surgeries but doctors could not restore her vision.
The attack, which happened over a month before the December 16 Delhi gang rape, saw wide media coverage in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, with thousands of well-wishers sending money for her treatment. Puducherry MP V. Naryanaswamy, also minister of state in the PMO, got Rs 3 lakh released from the Prime Minister's relief fund.
"It is sad that Vinodhini, hailing from a poor family, died in spite of all efforts by authorities and hospital staff to save her," a Puducherry report quoted him as saying.
Political leaders and women activists, who had come out in her support and visited her family in the last two months, organised a public tribute near the Chennai mofussil bus terminus where hundreds paid homage to Vinodhini.
Her father Jayapaul, a school watchman, was inconsolable. "She was our family's first graduate and had just got a good job offer. We want the police to ensure that Suresh and his associates receive the highest punishment possible," he said.
Puducherry police, who had booked the four for attempt to murder, said they would convert the charges to murder and use the latest ordinance to press for stiffer punishment.
"Since the death occurred after the ordinance came into force, we can prosecute them under its provisions," a senior officer said.