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ACID ATTACK IN INDIA

Author: Simran Yunus, pursuing B.A.,LL.B. from Bihar Institute of Law


INTRODUCTION , What is acid attack ?

Acid attack is one of the most cruel attack that anyone could do to someone. In simple words it is throwing of acid on anyone, acid here refers to a liquid substance that can dissolve metal and may burn anyone's skin or clothes. Acids have a pH value of less than 7, acids are of many types some are extremely harmful and some are less in comparison the most common types of acid used in acid attacks are sulfuric acid , nitric acid , Hydrochloric acid , etc. Hydrochloric acid is less damaging as compared to the other two. An acid attack leads to not only physical pain or loss of the victim but also leads to psychological, emotional, moral and social loss and grief to the victim. In most of the cases of acid attacks acid is mainly thrown on the face of the victim, the main motive behind this is to destroy the face of the victim, throwing of acid on victims face may lead to permanent, partial, or complete blindness and permanent disfiguration of face as acid completely burns and destroys or damages the tissue of skin.


Definition of acid attack by several acts of India

● The Indian Penal Code, 1860 by virtue of Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 under the Explanation 1 of Section 326B has defined acid to include:

"any substance which has the acidic or corrosive character or burning nature, capable of causing bodily injury leading to scars or disfigurement or temporary or permanent disability".

● National Commission of India, July 2009, Acid attack can be perceived as "any act of throwing acid or using acid in any form on the victim with the intention of or with the knowledge that such person is likely to cause to the other person permanent or partial damage or deformity or disfiguration to any part of the body of such person.

● According to Section 3 of the "Prevention of Offences (by Acids) Act 2008,(National Commission for Woman – Draft Bill)" constitute the definition of Acid Attacks and Acid as :

"Acid" shall mean and includes any substance which has the character of acidic or corrosive or burning nature that is capable of causing bodily injuries leading to scars or disfigurement or temporary or permanent disability.


"Acid attack" means any act of throwing acid or using acid in any form on the victim with the intent of or with the knowledge that such person is likely to cause to the other person Permanent or partial damage or deformity or disfiguration to any part of the body of such person.


An acid attack can happen anywhere. Incidents of acid attack have frequently taken place at home, on the streets and even at work places. The victim of acid attack are mostly females in a percentage of 100 , 98% victims of these attacks are the females reasons behind are numerous such as India being a male dominated society, social stigmatization' and 'leniency of laws in punishing the accused , peer jealousy , domestic violence , inexpensive and effortless obtainability of acids , safeguarding the honor of the family by forbidding women to retaliate against the accepted norms and ethnicities of the family , rejection to obsessive lovers etc.


Why acid attack ? Reasons behind acid attack

Acid attack is an extremely cruel act the offender chose to do, as it effects the victim in and out and they suffer from physical, psychological , social and economic loss . It has a life long effect on the victim.


Reason behind any attack on anyone is simply the guilty intent of the culprit to make the victim suffer various losses, With this there are several other reasons to do acid attack on any one such as :

(1) For showing dominance.

(2) Out of jealousy.

(3) Out of anger.

(4) In domestic violence.

(5) For intimidating other.

(6) For revenge.

(7) Stigmatization and Leniency of laws.

(8) The refusal of marriage.

(9) The denial of sex .

(10) Silencing and controlling women.

(11) Easy availability and accessibility of acids.

(12) Lack of public awareness.

(13) Continued sale of acid.


Sufferings of the victim

The sufferings that the victim go through is unimaginable and beyond anyone's expectations. The victim not only bears physical pain but also suffers from several psychological , emotional and social complexity, pain and problems.

The physical sufferings are : Since the main aim while throwing acid on the victim is their face and the upper body that is face to chest area, The skull is partially destroyed and victim face hair loss. Ear cartilage is usually partly or totally damaged and deafness may occur. Nose can become shrunken and deformed and due to destroyed cartilage the nostrils may close off completely. Sometimes the lips and cheeks may be partially or totally destroyed, and exposing the teeth. The mouth becomes narrow and shrunken. It become more difficult to eat and speak. Acid attack victims face the possibility of sepsis, skin depigmentation and even death. They have to undergo numerous surgeries while physical recovery.

The psychological sufferings are : such an attack would effect any person internally very harshly it would leave its mark on the soul of the victim for years. It take years to re-gain and re-create the confidence in the victim. It requires a lot of time , patience and courage to move on. The victim also get mentally sick and get mental disease such as " Trauma , Depression , Anxiety , Frustration , Misandry. "

The emotional and social sufferings : In most of the cases victim becomes emotionally vulnerable they develop a fear from the society. There's always a question in their mind that whether society will accept them or not. They also stop believing in their own selves as well as on others. They also won't get job easily it becomes very tough for them to earn a living , they become dependent on their spouse and other family members for all their needs and requirements. It also becomes tough for them to find a partner as today's generation runs behind pretty faces and not pretty heart and soul. Some cruel people also bully them for their look , harass them & blame them for whatever happened.


Treatment

The treatment for acid attack is available in the medical science. The victim when after medication comes to a stable condition can undergo surgery , after surgery the scarred area would get recovered and comparatively better, but will not be same as it was before attack.

There are some pre aids that a person should immediately give to the victim of acid attack until she's taken to the hospital :

  1. Continuously douse the acid-affected area of the skin immediately with clean water to disperse the chemicals and arrest the burning and melting of the skin. The dousing needs to be continuous for a minimum of 20 minutes, and ideally until the burning sensation subsides.

  2. Remove any piece of jewellery (earrings, rings, necklaces, chains etc.) worn by the survivor at the earliest. This will stop any adverse chemical reaction from taking place.

  3. As soon as possible, remove the survivor’s acid-drenched clothes.

  4. In case the acid has affected the survivor’s eyes, stop them from rubbing or touching their eyes as it might worsen the condition. Gently pour water on the affected eyes continuously until burning subsides.

  5. It is advised not to put any sort of antiseptic ointment or household cream on the burnt skin as it will only delay the standard treatment procedure by doctors. Also, the affected area should not be bandaged with any gauze or cotton fabric.

Preventive measures for declination of acid attack

  1. Government should formulate more strict laws for the offender of such an attack.

  2. Government or NGO's should organise awareness program to make people aware of such attacks.

  3. Moral Counselling of teenagers so that they won't get involved in any such cruelty.

  4. Educating and working with young boys and girls promoting respectful relationships and gender equality

  5. Selling of harsh acids in local stores must get banned.

  6. Easy availability of acids must get reduced.

  7. There must be licensing system for selling acid and other harsh life threatening chemicals, the seller must take license first.

  8. There must be a record maintained by sellers of the customer buying acid.

  9. If someone feels any threat from anyone for such an attack then immediately report to the nearest police station without any hesitation.

  10. The police officials must give proper assistance and support to the person reporting such threat

Laws relating to acid attack in India

Section 325 IPC – This Section deals with the punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt to any person, as defined under Section 322 IPC. So, if anyone voluntarily causes grievous hurt, then that person is liable under this provision.

As per bare act of IPC section 325, Punishment for voluntarily causing

grievous hurt.—Whoever, except in the case provided for by section 335, voluntarily causes grievous hurt, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.


Section 326A IPC – It deals with grievous hurt caused by the use of acid. According to this Section, if any individual uses acid to cause any injury to the victim, either permanently or temporarily, while having the knowledge that such an act will lead to burns to the body of the victim or will disfigure or disable any limb of such person or is likely to cause any type of grievous hurt, then that person will be liable for an acid attack.


Section 326B IPC- This Section deals with punishment for an attempt to commit an acid attack. According to this Section, even though no injury might be caused, the offender will be held liable if he/ she throws acid or attempts to throw acid on the victim.


Section 307 IPC – This Section deals with the attempt to murder.In the acid attack cases, before the drafting of specific clauses, this section will also be used where the motive was found to be murder, as it is a very heinous crime.


Section 302 IPC– Section 302 of the IPC deals with punishment for murder. As per the 226th Law Commission Report, there have been a number of cases where the offender was convicted under Sections 302 and 307 IPC. So section 302 is also applicable now if the acid attack results in the victim’s death.


Conclusion

I hereby conclude that acid attacks are the worst type of attack that anyone could do. It scars the victim physically, mentally, and emotionally. The victim suffers loss in all sense. No punishment can compensate for the victim's loss. These attacks take place due to leniency in laws and punishment and easy availability of acid and other harmful acidic chemicals. There must be more strict laws for punishing the offender and for the sale of such acidic chemicals. Selling of acid in local stores should get banned. And buyer must give valid reason of usage of the buyed acid and their identity proof such as adhaar card or voters I card for buying acid. Repeat offenders should get life sentence.


Reference

● Prevention of Offences (by Acids) Act 2008, (NCW – Draft Bill.

● The Indian Penal code, 1860.

● Criminal Procedure Act, 2013 (Amendment Act).

● Campaign and Struggle against Acid attacks on women (CSAAAW).

● Leading case of Laxmi vs Union of India & others.

● Youtube documentaries of acid attack victims.

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