ACID ATTACK: A COMPLETE STATE OF DESPAIR
Updated: Dec 13, 2020
By Avni Bhargava, II year B.B.A., LL.B., Amity Law School, Noida
Acid attack is a type of assault which involves throwing acid or a similar substance over the other person with some kind of ill motive. It can be sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, NaOH etc. The impact of acid attack is very painful on the victim and it ranges from bodily disfigurement to psychological impact that a person suffers after the attack which cannot be compensated. Victims may be neglected not just by the society but by their own family in some cases, in 25 % cases it may lead to divorce, acid attack survivors may find it difficult to get a job and this may lead to depression, low self-esteem. Not every human is powerful enough to deal with such situation and scars may sometimes become permanent leaving them hopeless.
Acid was used in our ancient time for extracting the metal. In 1879 there were 16 cases in France of acid attacks. First acid attack in Asia occurred in 1967 in Bangladesh after that in 1982 in India. After that acid attack is continuously growing in India, unlike Bangladesh where there has been a significant decrease in the number of acid attacks in recent years. Acid attack in India has a gendered aspect in it; more than 70% of victims are women. A study was conducted which shown that rejection of marriage proposal or sex was the reason in 35 % cases which motivated the attacker.
The root cause for the attack in majority cases in India revolves around two reasons in my finding –
1) Indians boys are not taught to accept rejection and they in one or other way think that they have a more dominant and powerful position than woman, because this is what they see in their house since they were a child
2) Beauty is still considered to be the most important aspect of a woman.
STATICS OF ACID ATTACK
India ranks number one in acid attack approximately 300 cases are registered every year however survivors say that actual cases may be around 1000 per year as they are not reported.
The highest numbers of cases were reported in the year 2017; however, it falls back in the year 2018 and 2019. The difference between the number of people charged and the number of victims in the year 2017-18 there were 623 victims but much less than half that is only around 149 people, against whom charges were registered shows the data. The state with most horrifying data that make up most of the victims from 2014- 18 are
U .P – 261, WEST BENGAL- 249, DELHI -115
In the year 2015, 734 cases went for a court trial, but only 33 cases were completed. In the year 2016 and 2017, only 67 cases court trial was completed out of 850 cases and the actual conviction remains far below. In the year 2018 out of total 523 cases, only 19 were convicted. The figures were painful to see and the harsh reality of our country on one or the other side.
According to ASTI (Acid survivors trust international)
UK -310 cases (2018) and 456 cases (2017) in which the majority of victims were male
COLOMBIA - 100 cases in which the majority of victims were women
PAKISTAN - 80 cases in 2018, however, most of the cases go unreported similar to India
BANGLADESH- - 100 cases per year showing a constant decline.
UGANDA- 35 cases per year most do not get reported.
CAMBODIA- Less than 10 cases per year have shown a significant decline.
LEGISLATION IN INDIA FOR ACID ATTACK
The law commission in its 226 reports stated that Acid attack should now be considered as the specific offence in IPC and the need for having more strict laws against it also highlighted compensation to victims. The Justice Verma Committee took into consideration this report and the need for making more stringent laws against acid attack as section 326 of IPC which deals with the offence of voluntary hurt to the human body by a dangerous weapon was not sufficient enough to punish the attackers.
Justice Verma committee also took into consideration Sachin Jana v. State of West Bengal case[i], where Supreme Court read section 307 which is an attempt to murder along with section 34 of IPC and considered acid attack as an attempt to murder. Also recognized the need for more strict rules as the crime is of more gravity. On the recommendation of the justice Verma committee finally, amendments were introduced in IPC in criminal law amendment act 2013 which inserted Sections 326 A, Section 326 B and in section 100 an additional clause.
SECTION 326 A
This section punishes a person who causes hurt to another person by acid. The essential of these sections are
1. The attacker should cause partial or permanent damage or
2. The act has caused a burn or disability or deformity in any body part of the victim.
3. The act has resulted in serious hurt
4. The act has been done either by administrating or throwing the acid.
5. The attacker should have the intention and know the consequence of the act.
Imprisonment which is not less than 10 years and maybe extended to life.
The offender should also pay fine to the victim for medical expenses.
SECTION 326 B
This section punishes a person for throwing or attempting to throw acid on another person. The essential of the section is
1. The accused have thrown or attempted to throw or administer acid on the victim.
2. The accused should have a motive to cause hurt, damage or any kind of deformity to another person.
Imprisonment which is not less than 5 year and may extend up to 7 years. (Now 10 years)
- In section 100 of IPC, an additional clause 7 was added according to which private defence can be used by the victim to the maximum extent.
- Model poison possession and sale rules 2013 were framed which contain license, procurement and other rules which have to be followed.
- The state has also enacted a scheme for compensation to the survivors.
- National legal service authority of India also started a scheme of legal assistance to victims.
In the case of Parivartan Kendra v. Union of India[ii], Supreme Court said that despite so many obligations in Lakshmi case the sail of acid continues freely in most of the country and is easily available, the SC also asked to state government to make sure that victims are provided with full medical care in all the hospitals of the state and other essentials such as food, commodities etc.
“Prevention of acid attack and rehabilitation of Acid attack victims” bill was passed in the year 2017 which provided directions to control acid supply and prevent misuse and also increased the punishment in section 326 B from 7 to 10 year in IPC.
BEFORE THE AMENDMENT ACT OF 2013
Marepally Venkata Sree Nagesh vs. State of A.P[iii]
The accused inserted mercuric chloride into the vagina of his wife as a result the wife died, the accused was charged under section 302 and 307 of IPC.
State of Karnataka vs. Joseph Rodrigues[iv]
In this case, the attacker threw acid on the face of a girl named Hasina as a result she suffered from permanent damage to her left eye and deep scars all over the face. The accused was charged under section 307 of IPC.
Devanand vs. The state (NCT of Delhi)[v]
The accused threw acid attack on his wife because the wife denied cohabiting. The victim suffered from eye loss and disfigurement. The accused was charged under section 307.
AFTER THE AMENDMENT ACT OF 2013
Laxmi vs. Union of India [vi] - Laxmi, an acid attack survivor filed the petition in sc. The apex court addressed the problem of free sale of acid and compensation to survivors in this case. The SC directed the state government to pay minimum 3 lakh rupees compensation to acid attack survivors and also impose a strict check on sale of acid. However, no major difference was noted even after this case.
Parivartan Kendra vs. Union of India- The petition was filed in this case for medical care and compensation to the survivors of acid attack as a result of acid attack on two Dalit girls. The SC noted that even after the Lakshmi case no major steps were taken by the state for compensation to victims. Acid was still freely available in most of the part of the country. Victims were also denied treatment in hospitals. SC directed the states to make a separate body to deal with it and also directed states to take the matter seriously and the state will be responsible for any kind of failure.
- A complete ban on the sale of acid in a retail store.
- Need for change in the mindset of people.
- Speedy disposal of the case.
- Providing jobs to survivors, in case not possible because of some reason provide them with a pension.
[i] (2008) 3 SCC 390
[ii] (2016) 3 SCC 571
[iii] 2002 (1) ALD Cri 905
[iv] 2005 (5) AIR Kar. R 724
[v] 102 (2003) DLT 708
[vi] (2014) 4 SCC 427