Her determination not to be a victim has inspired viewers and members of the audience were in tears when she won the contest.
The host of the show, Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan, called her “the epitome of courage” for “continuing her fight against all the odds.”
“Sometimes we think that our lives are miserable, everything is against us and then [when] we come across someone like Sonali we realize how lucky we are and how much we have got going for us,” he said on the show.
Mukherjee wants to use her high profile to campaign for fellow victims to push for specific legislation on acid attacks, which are currently covered by domestic violence laws that carry relatively light sentences.
Last year, neighboring Pakistan adopted legislation increasing the punishment to between 14 years and life for acid attacks and a minimum fine of 1 million Pakistan rupees (US$10,200).
“The men who threw acid on me are roaming in the open, but if there were stricter punishments then they would be behind bars,” Mukherjee said.
Indian lawyer Aparna Bhatt, who has fought a legal battle in the Supreme Court for another acid victim, has filed a public petition seeking free medical treatment for acid victims and to regulate the sale of acid.
“India needs a new law to define acid crime in a far more comprehensive manner. There should be free medical care, rehabilitation for the victims,” Bhatt said. “Acid is a dangerous weapon.”