Laws related to the Acid attack in India

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Acid attack is one of the most ferocious and violent crimes against women. Acid attack refers to the act of throwing acid on the body of another person with the intention to disfigure, maim, torture, or kill that person. Perpetrators attack their victims by throwing acid at their faces, thus burning and damaging their skin tissue, often exposing and in more critical cases, dissolving their bones. It is estimated that thousands of women suffer due to acid attacks per year in India.

Generally, Hydrochloric acid, Nitric acid and Sulphuric acid are used to attack women. These acids cause severe burning of the face and even melt the bones. Victims lose their eyesight, ability to hear, etc. In many cases, these victims lose their lives because of the severity of the burns.

Not only that, an acid attack victim has to endure long lasting consequences in their lives. They face perpetual pain, permanent damage and disfiguration which cannot be reversed. They feel worthless, are afraid and humiliated and become social outcasts because of their appearance. 

Available charges for the conviction of accused prior to the enactment of the special section

Earlier, there were no specific provisions punishing the commission of an acid attack in India. The accused were convicted under section 320, 322, 325 or 326 of the Indian Penal Code, under the offences of grievous hurt.

  1. Under Section 322 of IPC, the term “voluntarily cause grievous hurt” refers to such hurt, which must be of a grievous nature and must be inflicted voluntarily with the intention to cause grievous hurt to the victim.
  2. For the conviction of an accused under Section 326 of IPC, it is important to prove that the act was done “voluntarily” and to establish that the intention was to cause grievous hurt or that it was done with the knowledge that the same is likely to cause grievous hurt. If the same is committed using as a weapon which may likely cause death, by means of fire, any heated substance, by means of any poison, any corrosive substance, by means of any explosive substance, or by of any substance which is harmful to the human body, it comes within the ambit of section 326 and the accused may be pun­ished with life imprisonment, or with imprisonment of ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.
  3. If grievous hurt is inflicted without the use of a weapon which the accused has knowledge will likely cause death, section 325 of IPC would be applicable and the accused shall be punished with imprisonment of a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.
  4. The term “grievous hurt” has been defined in Section 320 of IPC. Conviction of the accused can only be done if the acid attack affects the victim by permanent privation of eye sight, ability to hear, joint, disfigurement of head or face, fracture of bone or tooth or the victim is unable to follow her ordinary pursuits during the space of twenty days.

In cases where the acid attack lead to the death of the victim, courts have convicted the accused for the charge of murder under section 302 of IPC or sometimes, for the attempt to murder under Section 307 of IPC.

Recommendation of Law Commission’s 226th Report on Acid Attacks

READ THE REPORT HERE

The Law Commission, the National Commission for Women and other Women Rights Organisations have demanded for a specific law to deal with the cases of acid attack. In response to the same, the 226th Law Commission Report submitted its finding under the title, “The inclusion of Acid Attacks as Specific Offences in the Indian Penal Code and a law for Compensation for Victims of Crime,” to the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India for its consideration in the proceedings of WP (Crl.) No. 129 of 2006.

The report showed the alarming increase in acid attacks and the conviction of the accuseds under the charges of grievous hurt, attempt to murder or murder and that in such cases, victim doesn’t seldom got any compensation. The report also documented the laws and punishments regarding acid attack in different countries. The main motive was to provide the victims with compensation, so as to alleviate their situation, in the short term as well as long term, enabling them the access to specialized medical treatments and plastic surgeries which are costly for the unfortunate victims.

Therefore, keeping in mind these aspects, the Law Commission of India proposed new sections, 326A and 326B to be added in Indian Penal Code.

Under Section 326A, titled “hurt by acid attack”, the accused shall be punishable with minimum imprisonment of 10 years extendable up to imprisonment for life and with fine up to Rs. 10 Lakhs. And any fine imposed, shall be given to the victim of acid attack and 326 B titled “intentionally throwing or administering acid” where accused shall be liable to a term not less than 5 years extendable to 10 years and with fine up to Rs. 5 Lakh. Both the offences were proposed to be cognizable, non bailable and non-compoundable by nature and be triable by the session court.

Law Commission of India, in its report further proposed, for the reason stated above, that in cases of acid attack a different standard of presumption was to be incorporated in the Indian Evidence Act under Section 114B.

They had proposed under section 114B, titled “Presumption as to acid attack” where if a person has thrown or administered acid on another person the court shall presume that such an act has been done with the intention of causing such harm, and with the knowledge that such an act is likely to cause such grievous hurt or an injury as mentioned in Section 326 A of the Indian Penal Code.

They had further proposed that “Criminal Injuries Compensation Act” should operate as a separate law, which should provide both interim and final monetary compensation to victims of violence like Rape, Sexual Assault, Acid Attacks etc. and should provide for expenses relating to medical, rehabilitation and loss of earnings.

Prevention of Offences (By Acids) Act, 2008

The Supreme Court suggested possible changes and the inclusion in the Indian Penal Code that was drafted by the National Commission of Women, by taking cue from the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, 1993, which provides for stricter legislation for the elimination of violence against women.

The opening statement of objectives and reasons for this act clearly states, that a victim of acid attack suffers in every stage of their life, starting from the permanently disfigurement of the body parts, eventual destruction of the victim physically and psychologically to slow and painful deaths, and even if, victims stay alive, they are confined to their homes for rest of their life. The victim’s family needs to bear the cost of wide-ranging surgeries to reconstruct the damaged face of the victim by short term and long term medical facilities in the form of specialized plastic surgery which costs the victim a minimum of two lacs. In addition the victims do not have any scope for rehabilitation left.

Thus, the main objectives of this bill are to classify the crime of acid attack as a separate and most heinous form of hurt towards women, to assist the victim by providing medical treatment services, social and psychological and legal support, to arrange and provide rehabilitation mechanisms.

Chapter 1 of the proposed Act provides the applicability and definitions. Chapter 2 deals with the Implementing Authorities under the Act. Chapter 3 provides for the Procedure for Assistance to victims of acid attack. Chapter 4 deals with “National Acid Attack Victim Assistance Fund” and Chapter 5 deals with the provisions for the duty of government and medical facility towards the victims.

And finally, the act prescribes certain amendments in the Indian Penal Code. They are:-

  1. Section 326A in IPC – An accused shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than 10 years extendable to life imprisonment and shall also be liable to fine which shall be a minimum of Rs 2 Lakhs extendable to Rs 5 lakhs. The offence shall be cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable.
  2. Section 326B in IPC- Attempt to throw or use acid in any form on the other person – Whoever does any act, shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than 7 years and shall also be liable to fine to a minimum of Rs 1 lakh.
  3. Section 114B the Indian evidence Act- Presumption as to acid attack –the Court shall presume, having regard to the circumstances of the case and the statement of the victim, that such person has thrown acid on the woman with the intention of causing grievous hurt. 
  4. section 357A in the Criminal Procedure Code – Defraying of expenses, the court, when passing judgment for the offence under section 326 A or 326 B of the IPC, may direct for the payment to of compensation for any loss or injury caused by the offence, contributing expenses for assistance to victims, etc.

Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013

Finally, under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, the following amendments were made in IPC and CrPC against the crime of acid attack- 

Amendments in IPC

Section 326A- Any person, who causes permanent or partial damage, deformity, burns, maims, disfigures or disables, any part of the body or causes grievous hurt by throwing or administering acid to that person with the intention of causing or with the knowledge that he is likely to cause such injury, shall be punished with imprisonment for not less than ten years extendable to imprisonment for life, and with fine, which shall be just and reasonable to meet the medical expenses of the treatment of the victim and any fine imposed under this section shall be paid to the victim.

Section 326B- Whoever throws or attempts to throw acid on any person, with the intention of causing permanent or partial damage, deformity, burns or disfigurement or disability or grievous hurt to that person, shall be punished with imprisonment for not be less than five years extendable to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Amendments in CrPC

Section 357A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the following section shall be inserted, namely:-

Section 357B- State Government should pay compensation to the victim under section 357A shall be in addition to the payment of fine under section 326A of IPC.

Section 357C- Immediate medical treatment should be provided, free of cost  to the victims, of any offence under section 326A of IPC, and shall immediately inform the police of such incident.

Conclusion

Acid attack is one of the most heinous crimes going on in society. Every victim of acid attack faces permanent problems in her lifetime. They cannot live a normal life anymore. Their life becomes miserable. It makes it extremely difficult for such victims to continue their studies, go to work, marry or have kids, and even basic socializing.

Day by day, these crimes are increasing. So, it is incumbent on the government to take rigorous measures and give harsher punishments to these disgusting criminals. And in these cases, not only the Government, but also the society should be concerned and help the victim to live a normal life instead of creating such an environment, which does not accept her or ostracize her. Government plays an important role in preventing the society from these crimes by making and executing strict laws in the country, in the same way, a society plays a more important role in helping the victim in her recovery.

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Monika Mukherjee

Author

Monika hails from IFCAI University, Dehradun and she spends most of her time in painting and sketching. Her Interest area lies in laws for women and their protection. For any clarifications, feedback, and advice, you can reach her at monikamukherjee2307@gmail.com

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