https://bit.ly/2DcQCGT

This article is written by Beejal Ahuja from the New Law College, Bharati Vidyapeeth University, Pune. This article deals with the various laws on acid attack worldwide, and the laws existing in India.

Introduction

“The surgeries left me depressed and I wanted to commit suicide.”

These are the words of an acid attack survivor. We can not even bear to look at the acid attack victims, there is a tattoo of opinions and words about their face, appearance but not a single word for the criminal. It is very easy to mock them, to ignore them, but no one can feel the pain, depression, and anxiety they carry in their hearts. When it comes to candle marches there are millions of people standing out there but when it comes to donating money for them, supporting them, there is not a single person. Even today around 1000 acid attacks take place and most of them go unreported. This crime can happen to anyone irrespective of their caste, religion, gender, and age, but it can be seen from the history of this crime that it mostly happens to women. 

The acid attack has become a horrific attack. Men have got an alternative to destroying her face and her life. The intention behind this crime is very basic i.e. refusal to do marriage, sex and romance, rejection to love proposals, etc. so, hatred, jealousy and humiliation instigate the person. Acid is available in the market easily, as it is used in many daily chores, even after the sale of it is a ban. But coming to the laws made, they are very normal. The lack of stringent laws is giving the license to the criminals. Because, unlike other attacks, this acid attack just involves the disfigured face, loss of eyesight, and in very few cases the victims die due to the lack of proper treatment. Even the doctors and police do not behave properly to them. The acid attack survivors lead a very miserable life and no one can feel their pain.

Acid attack

According to Black Law Dictionary, ‘acid’ is a corrosive substance with below ph of below 7 which when thrown on someone could damage the skin tissue, burning, disfiguring, exposing, and sometimes dissolving of bones. The Indian Penal Code,1860, does not define ‘acid’. Strong acids are very harmful whereas the weak ones are not. Hydrochloric Acid and Sulphuric acid is easily available in the market as they are used in household chores, chemistry experiments in schools, etc. Throwing off this corrosive solution or substance is referred to as an ‘acid attack’. 

https://lawsikho.com/course/barhacker---crack-all-india-bar-exam

Consequences of acid attack

This attack does not involve killing or murdering the victim but this attack has a lifetime physical, medical, psychological, and social challenges. 

Physical and medical consequences

The medical effects are evident in the definition mentioned above. The acid attacks are mostly on the face of the victims and melt all the skin, eats up the underlying fat, and dissolves the bones even. Many times sensitive parts of the face like eyelids, lips, ears, and nose are destroyed. If this corrosive substance comes in contact with the eyes then the victim may go blind. The amount of injury depends on the concentration of the acid and the time within which it is treated or neutralized. Many times victims are tortured to drink acid or are Marepally Venkata v. State of Andhra Pradesh (inserted into their private parts which leads to extreme internal destruction). The survivors or the victims have to go through a lot of surgeries to get recovered which is very expensive and most of them cannot afford it. If these wounds are not treated they can even cause many infections or can even cost them a death. The compensation provided by the government is also not so sufficient for the victims.

Psychological consequences

The biggest challenge for the victims is to accept their appearance and get back to their normal life. After the attack, they suffer from chronic pain, deformities, isolation, depression, and many a time they think of suiciding. The social stigma attached to them after the attack makes their life difficult. Many suffer from Post-Trauma Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is difficult for them to forget the incident and fight against it. Sometimes their family members also do not support them and it becomes hard for them to overcome all this.

Societal Effects

Due to their appearance, the society members often mock them and the victims also think that if they go out they will end up scaring people. Also, the disabilities caused to them make them dependent on others and no one helps them. They are not able to get an education after that because they are discriminated against in a class by the students. They don’t even get the jobs easily due to their appearance. So, even if the victims accept themselves, society does not let them do so. After all this, the victims often end up blaming themselves for the incident.

Current laws and punishment

Till 2013, India did not have any specific laws which dealt with the acid attacks specifically. Even Section 326 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 dealt with ‘Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means’ which though included hurt by corrosive substance but did not have a specific provision to deal with acid attacks. The scope of Section 326 was also very limited and a narrow one and was not dealing with this crime appropriately because- 

  • It did not cover the various kinds of injuries inflicted by acid attack and how grievous injury has been caused.
  • It did not cover the planning and administering of the attack.
  • It did not punish the intentional act which did not cause any injury to the victim.

But in 2013, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, was passed by the legislation, which inserted Section 326A and Section 326B under Indian Penal Code, to specifically deal with the cases of acid attacks in India. This amendment included the various injuries inflicted upon, the punishment for an attempt to attack, the pre-planning or administering of the act and the compensation to be awarded to the victims. This amendment also inserted provisions for the compensation to the victim i.e. Section 375B and Section 357C which not only provided compensation by State but also Free Medical Treatment. Also, the right of private defence under Section 100 of the Indian Penal Code was extended.

Section 326A of IPC

Section 326A of the Indian Penal Code states the ‘Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid, etc.’

  • If any person by using acid or any other means and cause a partial disability, deformity, bums, maim, disfigurement of the face, or any part of the body intentionally by administering acid, then will be punished for not less than 10 years of imprisonment which may extend to life imprisonment along with the fine.
  • The fine will be reasonable and according to the medical expenses for the treatment of the victim.
  • The fine shall be paid to the victim.

                 

Section 326B of IPC

Section 326B of the Indian Penal Code states the ‘Voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid’

  • If anyone attempts to throw acid or even attempts to administer acid to any person, or attempts by any other means to cause permanent deformity, disability, bums, maims or disfigurement of causing a grievous hurt then the person shall be punished with an imprisonment of not less than five years but may extend to seven years and will also be liable to pay fine.
  • Explanation 1 – Acid has been explained for both the sections, it defines an acid as a substance with the corrosive character or burning nature, which can cause bodily injury which may lead to scars, disfigurement, or permanent or temporary disability.
  • Explanation 2 – It explains for the sections that the permanent or partial disability or deformity is not necessarily required to be irreversible.

Section 357B of CrPC

Section 357B of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 states that the compensation given by the State Government to the victim under Section 357A will be in addition to the fine paid by criminal to the victim under Section 326A or Section 376D of the Indian Penal Code.

Section 357C of CrPC

Section 357C of the Code of Criminal Procedure orders that all the hospitals be it private or public and whether run by the Central Government, the State Government, local bodies or any other person, have to provide the first aid or the treatment, free of cost for the victims of any offence mentioned or covered under Section 326A, 376, 376A, 376C, 376D or Section 376E of the Indian Penal Code and have to inform about the incident to the police immediately.

Section 100 of IPC extension

Section 100 of the Indian Penal Code extension states that:

Seventh- This gives the right to a defence that may extend to the death assailant. If any person throws or administers the act of acid or attempts to throw acid then it can cause apprehension or grievous hurt which will be the consequence of his act and will amount to private defence.

The above amendments and sections inserted were done after the recommendation of the committee of J.S. Verma and it was propped by 226th Report of Law Commission of India which focused particularly on acid attacks.

Cases related to Acid Attacks

Cases before Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013

Marepally Venakata Sree Nagesh v. State of A.P., Andhra Pradesh HC, 2002

In Marepally Venkata Sree Nagesh v. the State of A.P., the accused was the husband of the deceased. He doubted the character of his wife for having an extra-marital affair and illegitimate relations with another man. He inserted mercuric chloride into her vagina which caused renal failure and resulted in her death. The accused was punished under Section 302 and 307 of the Indian Penal Code.

Balu v. State Represented Inspector of Police, Madras HC, 2006

In this case, the accused was a husband and he was ordered to pay a very small amount of Rs. 2000 to his wife for an acid attack on her. This appeal was dismissed by the Madras High Court. Such a small amount of compensation was not sufficient.

The state of Karnataka by Jalahalli Police Station v. Joseph Rodrigues, Karnataka HC, 2006

This case is one of the most famous cases of acid attack. The accused threw acid on a girl named Hasina because she refused to accept his job offer. After this attack, her skin colour and appearance of her face was changed. Moreover, this attack left her blind. The accused was convicted under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code and punished for the imprisonment of life.

Devanand v. The State

In this case, the accused was the husband of the victim, but they were not having so good relations and he threw acid on her just because she refused to cohabit with him. After this wife got permanently disabled by losing one eye. The accused was convicted under Section  307 and with 7 years imprisonment.

Gulab Sahiblal Shaikh v. State of Maharashtra 1998 BomCR 

In this case, the court however punished the accused under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code for life imprisonment but only Rs. 1000 fine was awarded as per the provision. 

Landmark Judgments

Laxmi v. Union of India, SC, 2006

This is a very famous case and we all know this case, as recently a film was also made on her. In this case, the accused threw acid on her relative because she refused his marriage proposal and was in a relationship with another boy. The victim filed a petition in Supreme Court to regulate the sale of acid, to compensate for the cost of treatment of the acid attack victim, and to make new provisions dealing specifically with the acid attacks.

The apex court issued orders to regulate the sale of acid to the respective State or UT. It was also held by the Supreme Court that there will be full medical assistance provided to the victims and ordered both public and private hospitals to provide free medical treatment to such victims. A certificate should be issued to the victims stating about them and no hospital should violate these laws and will inform the police immediately about any such event. It was also held that a compensation of a minimum of 3 lakhs by the State will be provided to the victim for aftercare and rehabilitation costs.

Parivartan Kendra v. Union of India, SC, 2015

In this case, an NGO named Parivartan Kendra filed a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, highlighting the violation of orders and rule given by the Supreme Court in Laxmi Agarwal v. Union of India, regarding the inadequacy of compensation given to the acid attack victims and the lack of legal, medical, and rehabilitative services to the victims. And also mentioning about the insufficient compensation of 3 lakhs in the treatment of the victim, hence the amount should be increased to 6 lakhs.

State of Maharashtra v. Ankur Panwar (Preeti Rathi Case), SC, 2002

In this case, the accused Ankur Panwar, threw acid on the victim named Preeti Rathi at Bandra Station in 2013 because she refused to accept his marriage proposal and opt to pursue her career in nursing. The accused was sentenced to death by a special women’s Court of Mumbai and also imposed a fine of Rs. 5000 to be given to the parents of the victim. This was the first time that a convict was sentenced to death. Indian was the second country to do this after Bangladesh.

Are these laws successful?

The laws which were formed to deal with the acid attacks specifically and were inserted in the Indian Penal Code were a good step by the judiciary to stop the attacks. But there was no significant drop in the number of acid attack cases in India. The laws focused mainly on punishing the convicts rather than eradicating this problem or prevention of the attacks. The laws are not so successful. Just framing the laws is not a solution, but for a law to be successful, it needs proper implementation and execution. 

The Indian judicial system is always overloaded with the cases. So, it takes years for one case to be solved. If there is an acid attack, and the victim files a case to get the convict punished and get compensation for the treatment, then it will take at least two to three years or more than that to get the accused punished and receive the compensation. Till then the victim must have gone through various kinds of trauma, pain, and have to live with that disfigured body till he/she receives the compensation. This is why our laws are not so successful in fighting with this problem.

Punishment for the acid attack across the globe

India is not the only country with so many acid attack cases. Countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Cambodia, and a few other countries also have many cases of acid attack.

Bangladesh 

Even before India, since the 1990s Bangladesh was the one with the highest number of acid attack cases. In 2002 the alarming increase in such attacks, made the government of Bangladesh pass 2 acts- The Acid Control Act 2002 and Acid Crime Prevention Act 2002. These two acts restricted the import and sale of acid in open markets and also addressed the punishment for the acid attackers. The government established a National Acid Control Council Fund and a Rehabilitation Center for the victims of acid attack. The tough laws in Bangladesh have reduced the number of acid attacks to an extent. The punishment under the Acid Control Act 2002 is according to the injury caused-

  1. The punishment for just attempting to throw acid without causing harm or any injury leads to a rigorous punishment of 7 years but not less than 3 years along with a fine of more than fifty thousand takas.
  2. If the acid attack results in any damage or disfigurement in the body then the rigorous punishment is for fourteen years but not less than seven years.
  3. If the attack results in the killing of the victim or any injury which leads to the loss of vision, loss of hearing, disfigurement of the face, breasts, or any sexual organ then capital punishment is given or life imprisonment.
  4. Even if someone helps the perpetrator, he/she will be treated and punished in the same manner.
  5. If someone imports or sells the unlicensed acid then they will be punished for three to ten years, with a fine up to fifty thousand takas. It is the authority of the government to track all the records and data of the licensed import, transport, and sale of acid.

All these stringent laws by the Bangladesh Government have dropped the number of acid attack cases to even less than 40 in a year now.

Cambodia

The Cambodia Government passed a different and specific law for acid attacks. The 2012 Acid Law was passed to regulate the distribution of acid in the open market, legal procedure, and punishments in acid attack cases. Article 16 to Article 21 of the Acid Law, 2012, states about the punishments in different circumstances-

Article 16

  • If there is an intentional pre-planned (with proof) killing by using the concentrated acid, or if any torture or cruelty is done to the victim before or at the time of killing then it will result in life imprisonment.
  • If there is an intentional killing but have no proof of pre-planning or acts of torture and cruelty before and at the time of killing then the punishment is of 15-30 years of imprisonment. 

Article 17-

  • If an acid attack results in an unintentional death of the victim then it attracts 1-5 years of imprisonment, along with a 2-10 million riel. 

Article 19- 

  • If any cruelty or torture leads to an unintentional death f the victim, or if the victim himself/herself commits suicide because of the attack then the punishment will be of 20-30 years imprisonment.
  • If any act of torture and cruelty leads to the loss of one body party or any other permanent disability then it will attract the punishment of 15-25 years of imprisonment.
  • Committing an acid attack and torture on an individual will lead to 10 -20 years of imprisonment.

Article 20- 

  • Unintentional death of a person due to intentional violence leads to the imprisonment of 10-20 years.
  • Permanent loss of a body part or permanent disability due to intentional violence attracts the imprisonment of 5-10 years.
  • The use of concentrated acid in intentional violence will result in 2-5 years of imprisonment with a fine of 4-10 million riels.

Article 21- 

  • Any act using concentrated acid if results in unintentional injury then the punishment given is of 1-12 months of imprisonment along with the fine of 200,000- 2 million riel.
  • Any act involving the use of concentrated acid that leads to unintentional injury which results in permanent disability will attract a punishment of 6 months- 3 years of imprisonment with a fine of 1-6 million.

Nepal

The Criminal Code Act, 2017 in Nepal mentions the laws related to acid attack. Because Nepal also had numerous cases of acid attacks. Though the laws made are not that stringent as compared to Bangladesh but have worked somehow. 

Section 193 of the act states that:

  • It is prohibited the use of acid or other similar substances to cause damage, bodily injury, results in disfigurement of any body part or causing pain to anyone. 
  • The provision also states that if any person violates this law, then he/ she will be punished for 5-8 years of imprisonment along with a fine of Rs. 100,000 to Rs. 500,000 in case if the acid attack leads to the disfigurement of the face.
  • In case of disfigurement of any other body organ or part, the law will attract a punishment of 3-5 years imprisonment with a fine of Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 300,000.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan passed the first law to criminalise the violence against women which included laws for acid attacks as well that was Elimination of Violence against Women Law (EVAW Law) in 2009. This law attracts a punishment of at least 10 years of imprisonment for the attacker and the compensation granted is according to the injury suffered.

Pakistan

In Pakistan, acid attacks became illegal in 2010 when the government passed the Acid Control and Prevention (Amendment) Bill, which increased the punishment in the case of acid attacks.

  1. Section 336-A – If any person intentionally causes or even attempts to hurt by using a corrosive substance or any other substance which could damage the human body or cause hurt will be punished.
  2. Section 336-B – the punishment for causing hurt by corrosive substance will be the imprisonment for life or imprisonment for not less than fourteen years along with a minimum fine of 1 million rupees. 

Countries mentioned above were the ones with the highest no. of acid attack cases from all over the world. Bangladesh has the most strict laws against acid attacks in the world. The reason behind the success of the stringent laws in Bangladesh was its proper implementation. In India, we don’t have very stringent laws but the laws might help to reduce to an extent but due to the lack of proper implementation, it has failed to reduce the number of cases.

Main issues with  the current laws

India has laws against acid attacks but why the cases number is not decreasing. In Bangladesh they introduced two acts in 2002 against the acid attacks, buying of unlicensed acid, and even if someone attempts for the attack are punished. These laws in Bangladesh have brought down the no. cases to 80%. But what are issues and why India is not successful in bringing down the number-

  • Laws introduced are only successful when it has a proper implementation in the crimes. In India, the criminals easily get bail from jail in between their term of imprisonment due to some reasons and this does not create fear in the mind of criminals because they know that after spending a few months they can get out.
  • The current laws mostly focus on punishing, there is not much focus on preventing these attacks. So, lack of supervision on the authorities.
  • Our law does punish the perpetrator for just attempting to attack. If there is no injury caused then the cases are not reported due to social stigma, fear of being questioned, etc. 
  • Lack of awareness about the rights and remedies available to the victim.
  • One can still easily buy acid, because are the authorities having a proper record of the licensed and unlicensed acid. 

Reforms and suggestions

The step by the Indian Judiciary of introducing an amendment in the Indian Penal Code and inserting Section 326A, 326B, and the compensation laws also in the Code of Criminal Procedure ie.e. Section 375B And 375C. But justice is never delivered until and unless the law is properly implemented.

  1. There is a dire need to make our justice delivery system a speedy one. There should be a separate tribunal to deal with such cases because in court it takes years for a case to be solved until then either the accused gets away or gets a very normal punishment. The cases must be solved within a stipulated time. The investigation of the case should be done as fast as possible and if not then the police must be held liable for that. So, a separate tribunal should ensure the fast delivery of the judgment and that judgment should be final and binding.
  2. There have been provisions made to regulate the sale of acid but still, it is easily available for domestic, scientific, and research purposes. Hence, there should be a separate monitoring system to supervise and check the implementation of the rules. Also, for maintaining proper records of the sale of licensed acid.
  3. Lack of knowledge and awareness leads to ignorance of the law. So, many people don’t have much knowledge about the new regulations on the sale and purchase of acid. Steps should be taken by the government to organise awareness camps.
  4. Though the Supreme Court has ordered compensation, medical treatments, and rehabilitation for acid victims. But today a couple of lakhs do not help the victims as such due to expensive treatments. So, either the compensation should be increased or a centre should be established to look after such victims only.
  5. Along with providing compensation to the victims, they must also be offered education and employment opportunities to make them self-reliant. There should be a different quota for such victims in job opportunities.

                  

Uplifting the Victims

There have been many initiatives taken by acid attack survivors or victims as well as other people to uplift and motivate the acid attack victims. 

  • In 2017, nine acid attack victims with disfigurement became defiant models at the first Haute couture for acid survivors in India. 
  • Ria Sharma and Tania Singh founded an NGO in Delhi ‘Make Love Not Scars’, which helped the acid attack survivors in rehabilitation and organised a fashion show for them.
  • Alok Dixit and Ashish Shukla found an NGO ‘Chhanv’ which started the Stop Acid Attacks Campaign in 2013, to spread awareness and demand to make laws for the government.
  • Laxmi Agrawal with her husband Alok started a cafe called ‘Sheroes Hangout’, which provides employment only to acid attack victims, and the cafe is also handled and managed by the acid attack survivors. When people visit them they not only enjoy the food but also get a chance to know the survivors. The cafe also organises various competitions like debate, conferences, and music sessions to entertain the acid attack victims.

The Government must support these initiatives and encourage other people to start such initiatives and themselves should support financially and in many other ways too.

Conclusion

Even after several steps taken by the government and initiatives by other people, this crime needs to be curbed by society first. In more than half of the cases, the victims are attacked because they refused the men for various reasons, which clearly shows that the patriarchal nature of the society is somewhere supporting this crime. When society will accept the victim and blame the accused and will fight in real for the victim, this crime would eradicate soon. Though the government still needs to take some stringent actions against this crime it could only be done if people support the government as well as the victims.

References


LawSikho has created a telegram group for exchanging legal knowledge, referrals and various opportunities. You can click on this link and join:

Follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more amazing legal content.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here