This article is written by Surbhi Agarwal, a student of UPES.
Crime, Crime, Crime, everywhere the word crime has been fascinated. A small word ‘crime’ has created so much significance in the life of others that everyone has only one word in their mouth. Who are responsible for such crime? To whom we can blame? The simple answer we the people. Crime is not something which has been created by God; it is the creature of human being. Human beings are only responsible for the heinous crime which we face today. Crime is not something which is new for us but it’s just that the way of doing crime has been reformed. In urban Areas, there was a time when people use acid for household purpose but now the work of acid has reformed his way and used for destroying the life of people.
The acid throwing is the most vicious form of crime in the society. Acid attack has its steep rise in past few years and as usual the most of the victim are women and only women. The horrific act of attacking people with acid has been taking place across different parts of country. Man has chosen an alternative form of action to exploit the life of women. Hydrochloric acid and Sulfuric acid which are easily available in the market are used for acid attack which melts the skin and even bones of the victim. Acid attack is such a heinous form of crime which makes the life of the victim miserable.
The most notable effects of an acid attack are the lifelong bodily disfigurement. The acid attack is a form of violent assault by throwing corrosive substance onto the body of another person with the intention to disfigure the body. Mainly acid are thrown at the face of victim, burning them, and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the bones. The long consequence of such type of attack is that it makes the person blind, as well as permanent scarring of the face and body. The acid attack makes the life of the person worse and it also affects their social, economic and psychological life.
The medical effects of acid attacks are extensive. Acid attack is not which can easily be recovered up, as the majority of acid attacks are aimed at face so, it depends upon the concentration of the acid and the period of time before the acid is thoroughly washed off with water or neutralized with a neutralizing agent. The acid attack makes our body paralyzed as it rapidly eat away our skin, the layer of fat beneath the skin, and in some cases even the underlying bones. Eyelids and lips may be completely destroyed, the nose and ears severely damaged.
Legal Effect of Acid Attack
Till recently there was not any specific law in India to deal with the cases of acid attack. The Section 326 of the Indian Penal Code which deals with voluntarily
Causing Grievous Hurt by Dangerous Weapons or Means was not so effective in dealing with this heinous form of crime because it does not include acid attack. The eighteenth law commission of India which was headed by Justice A.R. Lakshmanan then proposed a new section 326A and 326B in the India Penal Code and section 114B in the Indian Evidence Act.
The scope of the definition of section 326 is very narrow but it does not deal adequately with the issue of acid attack because:
- It does not cover the various kinds of injuries inflicted because of an acid attack
- The section does not cover the act of administering acid attack, i.e, planning it.
- The section also does not specify who the fine should be awarded to
- The section does not punish the intentional act of throwing of acid if no injuries occur
Further in cases of acid attack a presumption is incorporated in the Indian Evidence Act as Section 114B. The proposed Section 114B of the Indian Evidence Act shall read as under:
Presumption as to acid attack– If a person has thrown acid on, or administered acid to, another person the court shall presume that such an act has been done with the intention of causing, or with the knowledge that such an act is likely to cause such hurt or injury as is mentioned in Section 326 A of the Indian Penal Code. This section was introduced to give wide perspective to acid attack. Acid Attack was recently introduced as a separate offence under the Indian Penal Code through Criminal (Amendment) Act, 2013.
According to the Section 326A of Indian Penal Code “Acid” includes any substance which has acidic or corrosive character or burning nature that is capable of causing bodily injury leading to scars or disfigurement or temporary or permanent disability. The long term consequences of these attacks may include blindness, as well as permanent scarring of face and body, along with far-reaching social, psychological, and economic difficulties. Section 326A and Section 326B of Indian Penal Code includes punishment which is given to an accused which read as follow:
Section 326A lays down the punishment for acid throwing. The minimum punishment is 10 years imprisonment. It can extend up to life imprisonment with fine.
Section 326 B lays down the punishment for attempted acid throwing. The minimum punishment is 5 years imprisonment. It can extend up to 7 years imprisonment with fine.
This amendment included punishment for those people who practice this heinous form of crime but the amendment was useless because after also people use to practice. So the best punishment will be tit for tat i.e., same thing should be done with those people who practice this crime. They should give realization by throwing acid on their face and on their family members. These will be the best punishment which can be awarded to them.
Today’s scenario in both National and International plane
Today, acid attacks are reported in many parts of the world. Since 1990s, Bangladesh has been reporting the highest number of attacks and highest incidence rates for women with 3,512 Bangladeshi people acid attacked between 1999 and 2013. India is also now on high altering of acid attack after the case of Lakshmi. In 2000 in India there were 174 cases of acid attack but now it has taken a sudden rise. However, Bangladesh is the country which has highest number of cases in acid attack.
In most of these cases Hydrochloric and Sulphuric acid were used and all the victims were women. Though acid attack is a crime which can be committed against both man and woman but it has a specific gender dimension in India. Most of the reported acid attacks have been committed on women, particularly young women for spurning suitors. The victims in Karnataka were very young women between 16 and 25 years of age, and were attacked by men who were known to them. Mostly attacks took place in Public Places or at home.
Man who cannot face rejection take their ‘revenge’ by throwing acid in victim face so that the life of the person get destroy. Men throw acid on us with the intention of injuring or disfiguring our bodies, burn our faces, smash our noses, melt our eyes, and walk away as happy men. Men throw acid on us for taking revenge from us. Men emotions get hurted for ending relationships and for refusing sexual harassment, Sexual exploitation, proposals of marriage and demands for dowry. Since acid is so readily available across the counter in medical and other stores, acid attacks become a relatively cheap and effective way of committing acts of violence against women. Acid attack is common in Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan, Nepal, Cambodia, and a few other countries. All across the country, one can walk into a number of shops in rural or urban centers and purchase any amount of highly concentrated acid from shopkeepers, who barely raise an eyebrow when selling this highly corrosive substance to their consumers. Besides the use of concentrated acid in several industrial processes, highly concentrated sulphuric and hydrochloric acid is sold to the general public due to its multi-purpose usage, which is the real problem.
In countries like Pakistan, highly concentrated acid is used to remove lint from cotton seed, as it is a cheap way to obtain clean seeds ready to be replanted. The accessibility of acid not only encourages its use to perpetrate the crime of acid throwing, but the widespread use of acid by the rural populace also poses health hazards, causes accidents and has detrimental effects on the environment. All these factors provide a convincing enough argument for the government to find substitutes for the prevalent cotton seed treatment. In urban areas, it is a common household practice to use acid for cleaning or even drain-opening purposes. Promoting the use of safer cleaning agents would not prove very difficult, if government policies are put in place to deter their manufacture and sale. Sale licenses are issued for possession and sale of poisonous substances, including acids, under the Poison Act (XII) of 1919.
Cases related to acid attack
As the crime of acid attack has increased from past, so to put a stop to the growing number of acid attacks the Supreme Court has put ban on selling acid.
After the leading case of Laxmi v UOI, the Supreme Court passed an order to put ban on selling of acid in shops. For preventing acid attacks, the Supreme Court has completely prohibited the counter sale of the chemical unless the seller maintains a recording of the address and other details of the buyer, and the quantum. Dealers can now only sell the chemical after the buyer showed a government issued photo identity card and after specifying the purpose of purchase. The seller should submit the details of sale to the local police within three days of the transaction. Acid should not be sold to any person under 18 and all stocks must be declared with the local sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) within 15 days. Undeclared stocks could be confiscated and the defaulter fined up to Rs.50, 000. Acid attack is now a non-bailable and cognizance offence.
Laxmi of 22 years old, who was an acid attack survivor was waiting for a bus in Delhi’s tony Khan Market in 2005, when two men poured acid on her after she refused to marry one of them, leaving her disfigured. Though the victim and her parents were poor they were fortunately helped by a benefactor who bore the medical expenses approximating to Rs. 2.5 Lakhs. However, even after 4 plastic surgeries the victim’s physical appearance remains horrific and many more surgeries would be required to make her physical appearance a semblance of what it was. The victim can of course never look as she did before the attack.
The Supreme Court directed all states to pay acid attack victim Rs. 3 lakh towards medical treatment and aftercare rehabilitation and Rs. 1 lakh within 15 days of an incident and the balance within two months thereafter. Alok Dixit, Founder of Stop Acid Attack says that the good thing that has come out of it is the compensation but that is for the girls who will be attacked in the future.
In Devanand Vs. The State a man threw acid on his estranged wife because she refused to cohabit with him. The wife suffered permanent disfigurement and loss of one eye. The accused was convicted under Section 307 and was imprisoned for 7 years.
There are no official figures available but it is estimated there are 1,000 acid attacks a year in India. The people of India has become so hardened heart that they didn’t even think before pouring acid on the face of innocent women. The heart of Indian people has become black, they even didn’t think about their family members as they can also be the victim of same heinous crime, what they will do if their family members will suffer the same. The best punishment is tit for tat, the same should be done be the person who do with innocent women. They didn’t have any right to spoil the life of others. They will not get the lesson until and unless they will be placed in same pathetic condition.
Neighboring countries Bangladesh and Pakistan, too, have reported a number of cases of acid attack over the years. The reasons, more often than not, have remained the same across borders – easy availability of acid, and a spurned “lover” who wants to ‘teach a lesson’ to the girl. The number of cases in Bangladesh came down sharply after sale of concentrated acid was restricted in 2002. In India, acids are available in neighborhood provision stores at 10 or 15 rupees a litre.
A ban on the sale of acid in the retail market is the only solution to stop acid attacks. “Acid violence is a crime of vengeance. The change in the law will be effective only when implemented properly. There is also a need to build awareness among people who sell acid.” Making a law is useless until and unless people change their mind. Instead of implementing new laws mind of people should change first. India is trying to grapple with the problem of acid attack but there attempt will be failure unless no awareness has been raised among them.
An acid attack has long-lasting consequences on the life of the victim who faces perpetual torture, permanent damage and other problems for the rest of her life. Their living life becomes like a gutter; they become too traumatized and embarrassed to walk out of their house and carry out simple tasks let alone get married, have children, get a job, go to school, etc. Even if they are willing to pursue a normal life, there is no guarantee that society itself will treat them as normal human beings given their appearance and disabilities after an attack. They may not be able to work, or be able to find a job, and thus perpetually struggle to survive. Therefore, to curb attacks on women harsh punishment should be given to person so that they feel the same as the victim feels.
The Crime of an Acid attack is not on a small range, day by day the crime of acid attack is increasing so instead of making such useless law the government should take appropriate action which actual will help the victim.
LawSikho has created a telegram group for exchanging legal knowledge, referrals and various opportunities. You can click on this link and join:
 Acid Sales Regulation by Syed Mohammad Ali