acid atttack
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In this article, Ajay Sharma from NUALS, Kochi discusses acid attack sentencing and legislation in India.

Introduction

The incident of acid attack has been increasing phenomena in India and the most of the victim of the offence is especially women. While these attacks can be attributed to various factors such as the social; weakness of women and the existence of male-dominated society.

Which raised the question of the Indian society as well as the laws which are not able to deal with the problem? Acid is easily and inexpensively available weapon which makes it an ideal tool for the perpetrator. Acid is easily accessible at any shop near to your house anyone can buy it there is no restriction despite the Supreme Court has been passed the guidelines for the regulation of the acid but the problem is an implementation of those guidelines.

There is no specific and stringent legislation which deal with this problem because the acid attack is not like other offences in this the victim will have to survive with disfigured face whole life in which the victim has to face the ostracized not only from the society but some time from the family also. In India, there is no stringent law which can deal with this problem. This crime is mainly committed in four countries in the world namely, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Cambodia.

All the other countries have engaged in paving the way to an effective remedy for the survivors of the victims. Our neighbour, Bangladesh introduced a legislation for curbing the incidents of acid attacks in 2002. The legislation paased by Bangladesh is juresprudentially much stable when compared to the Indian law on the subject.Indian law neither effectively address the gravity of acid attack nor does it adequately help the acid attack survivors.

The Compensation is an important part of this crime but in India, there is no Criminal Injuries compensation Board yes we had heard much time that central government notify all states that form a compensation board but there is no single board which worked on it.

In Laxmi Vs. Union of India [1] the minimum compensation of 3, 00,000 peracid attack victim as not been fixed in some of the states. Let’s take an example of Bihar case in which 2 girls were attacked by acid in which the girls had caused several injuries and the state government gave them 25,000 and girls were already expended 5,00,000. This is a compensation processor scheme in India.

What is acid? According to the Black law dictionary, acid means “A solution with a Ph. below 7. It has a sour taste, releases hydroxyl, and makes litmus papers red. Strong acids are corrosive and weak ones are practically harmless. AKA mineral, inorganic, natural, and organic acids” unfortunately Indian Penal Code does not explain what is acid.

Laws in India

In India, there is no specific law which deals with the acid attack. Section 326A and 326B have been added in the Code Vide Criminal law (Amendment) Act 13 of 2013 with the object of making specific provisions for punishment in case of causing grievous hurt by use of acid etc. or voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid causing permanent or partial damage, or deformity to, or burns or maims or disfigures or disable any part of the body of that person.

Section 326 A of Indian penal Code says that – Whoever causes permanent or partial damage or deformity to, or bums or maims or disfigures or disables, any part or parts of the body of a person or causes grievous hurt by throwing acid on or by administering acid to that person, or by using any other means with the intention of causing or with the knowledge that he is likely to cause such injury or hurt, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than ten years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and with fine;

Provided that such fine shall be just and reasonable to meet the medical expenses of the treatment of the victim.

Provided further that any fine imposed under this section shall be paid to the victim.

Section 326B of Indian Penal Code says that- Whoever throws or attempt to throw acid on any person or attempt to administer acid to any person, or attempt to use any other means, with the intention of causing permanent or partial damage or deformity or burns or maiming or disfigurement or disability or grievous hurt to that person, shall be punished with the imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than five years but which may extend seven years, and shall also liable to fine.

Compensation

Section 357B the compensation payable by the State Government under Section 357A shall be in addition to the payment of fine to the victim under section 326A of the Indian Penal Code.

357C. All hospitals, public or private, whether run by the Central Government, the State Government, local bodies or any other person, shall immediately, provide the first-aid or medical treatment, free of cost, to the victims of any offence covered under section 326A, 376, 376A, 376B, 376C, 376D or section 376E of the Indian Penal Code, and shall immediately inform the police of such incident.”.

These sections inserted after the recommendation of the Justice J.S.Verma Committee and it was also a proposal of 226th Report of Law Commission of India which dealt particularly with acid attack.

Though acid attack is a crime which can be committed against any man or woman, 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, for rejecting the proposal of marriage, for denying dowry etc. The attacker cannot bear the fact that he has been rejected as seek to destroy the body of the women who have dared to stand up to him[2]

As we know that before the amendment there was no specific section or law which deals with this particular crime. Traditionally the offence is dealt with under Section 326 of the IPC which deals with ‘Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means’. This provision also deals with causing grievous hurt using ‘corrosive substances’ which include acids.

Some cases before the inclusion of the section 326A of IPC

In Marepally Venkata Sree Nagesh Vs. State of A.P [3], the accused was suspicious about the character of his wife and inserted mercuric chloride into her vagina, she died due to renal failure. The accused was charged and convicted under Section 302 and 307 IPC.

In Devanand Vs. The State[4] 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.

State of Karnataka by Jalahalli Police Station vs. Jospeh Rodrigues[5] it is one of the most famous cases involving acid attack. The accused threw acid on a girl, Hasina, for refusing his job offer. This deeply scarred her physical appearance changed the colour and appearance of her face and left her blind. The accused was convicted under Section 307 of IPC and sentenced to imprisonment for life. Compensation of Rs. 2, 00,000/- in addition to the Trial Court fine of Rs 3, 00,000 was to be paid by the accused to Hasina’s parents.

Landmark cases related to the Acid Attack

Laxmi v. Union of India[6] This is a landmark case, in this case, the petition filed by the Laxmi (Acid Victim). In this case, Apex Court issued the direction for the regulation of acid to the State and UT. The court also addressed the problem of compensation. The Apex Court held that Section 357A[7]this section provides for the preparation of a scheme for providing funds for the purpose of compensation to the victim or his dependents who have suffered loss or injury as a result of crime and who require rehabilitation. The Apex Court direct that the acid attacks victims shall be paid compensation of at least Rs. 3 Lakh by the concerned State Government/UT as the aftercare and rehabilitation cost.

But in reality, no state has set victim compensation scheme and the compensation ranging is from 25,000 to 3Lakh depend upon the state to state which is not sufficient for the victim because the acid attack victim will have to go through several plastic injuries in a whole life.

Parivartan Kendra Vs. Union of India[8] I this case the PIL filed the petition for the plight of acid attack victims like free medical care, rehabilitative service or adequate compensation under Survivor Compensation Schemes- Highlighted plight of two Dalit girls – Acid attack victims. In this case, court also took a consideration that despite orders and directions of the same court in the Laxmi case, acid still readily available to most of the population in India. In this landmark judgment Supreme Court issued a direction that the State Governments/ UT should seriously discuss and take up the matter with all the private hospitals in their respective State/ UT to the effect that the private hospitals should not refuse treatment to victims of acid attack and that full treatment should be provided to such victims including medicines, food, bedding and reconstructive surgeries. The Apex Court said that there is no need to set up a separate Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and the Court also clarified that the State Government/UT concerned can give even more amount of compensation more than Rs. 3Lakh.

The Court also said that the State Government/ UT should take a stringent action be taken against those erring persons supplying acid without proper authorization and also the concerned authorities be made responsible for failure to keep a check on the distribution of the acid.

(Preeti Rathi Case) State of Maharashtra v. Ankrur Panwar[9] in the first such order in an acid attack in Maharashtra a special women’s Court here sentenced Ankur Panwar to death. The accused was convicted of the charge of throwing acid on Preeti Rathi at Bandra station in 2013 after she chose to pursue her nursing career, declining his proposal for marriage. Special Judge Anju S. Shende said “According to the mitigating and aggravating circumstances, the facts of the case and the recent acid attack judgments by the Supreme Court, the accused to death.

Laws in other countries

Bangladesh

 In 2002, the Bangladeshi Government passed two Acts, the Acid control Act 2002 and the Acid Crime Prevention Act 2002. The Acts address punishment of those involved in the acid attack itself and restrict import and sale of acid in open markets.

Some important feature of the laws include

  • Establishment of a National Acid Control Council Fund
  • Establishment of a Rehabilitation Center for victims of acid crimes
  • Treatment for victims of acid crimes
  • Provision of Legal Aid for victims of acid crimes, etc.

Cambodia

In Cambodia, the Cambodian Law on Regulating Concentrate Acid passed in November 2011.This law criminalizes acid violence provides regulation and controls for all forms of concentrated acid. The law provides an extensive definition of the term “concentrate acid” with an ability to supplements the list by sub-decree in the future. In addition, regulates the import, transport, distribution, retail, and storage of acid by requiring a license or permission letter issued by the relevant Ministry allowing such uses.

The acid attack still burning India

The sections (326A, 326B) have been added in the penal code by the Criminal (Amendment) Act 2013 would not be able to stop or decrease the crime but the crime rates still the same. The latest data released Ministry of Home Affair was that the years 2011,2012 and 2013 witnessed 83,85 and 66 cases being reported respectively, but this number shot up to 309 in 2014- almost four times the average number of acid attack cases in preceding years. The majority of acid attack was in the Uttar Pradesh (185), Madhya Pradesh (53).[10]

Conclusion and Suggestion

The height of brutality in acid attacks is more than that in the cases of rape. Rape is considered as destroying the very soul of the victim, but even then if she is kept at a safe place she can stay without disclosing her identity; but in the case of an acid attack, they [the victims] have to move around with their bodies. In the I would like to suggest making a particular legislation which deals with the acid attack and the problem of the acid victim because the acid victims will have to face problem in their whole life.

Suggestion

  • To make specific legislation this would deal with the regulation of the acid.
  • Insert a section 114B: Presumption as to acid attack in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 which was recommended by the Justice J.S. Verma committee.
  • Center Government and State Government both would come forward and make a separate fund which deals with compensation payable to acid victims.
  • The victim, who cannot work, should get a pension.

References

[1] Laxmi Vs. Union of India 2014 4 SCC 427

[2] Proposal for the inclusion of acid attacks as specific offences in the Indian Penal Code and a law for compensation for victims of crimes, Law Commission of India,2008 at p.3

[3]Marepally Venkata Sree Nagesh  Vs.  State of A.P, 2002 CriLJ 3625

[4] Devanand Vs. The State  1987 (1) Crimes 314

[5] State of Karnataka by Jalahalli Police Station vs. Jospeh Rodrigues  Decided in the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala on 22/8/2006

[6] Laxmi v. Union of India  2014 4 SCC 427

[7] Inserted in the Code of Criminal Procedure,1973 by Act 5 of 2009

[8] Parivartan Kendra Vs. Union of India  2015 (13) SCALE 325

[9] State of Maharashtra v. Ankrur Panwar  Decided in September 2016

[10] The data submitted by the Ministry of Home Affair to the Supreme Court in the ( Laxmi V. Union Of India )

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