In Indian society, the women are given status of Devi the Goddess and in order to protect them from violence and being victim of offences the Indian Parliament is trying its best to enact different laws and from time to time as the society requires or when the lawmakers felt the need, the legislatures have legislated many penal laws in order to protect women or which favors them to live in a healthy society where there is no crime. Because of this reason the Criminal Amendment Act, 2013 came into existence by which the legislatures once again tried to save women from being the victims of acid attacks and therefore, section 326 A and 326B were incorporated in Indian Penal Code, 1860.
The acid throwing is the most vicious form of crime in the society. Acid attack has its steep rise in past few years and as usual, the most of the victim are women and only women. The horrific act of attacking people with acid has been taking place across different parts of the country. The man has chosen an alternative form of action to exploit the life of women. Hydrochloric acid and Sulfuric acid which are easily available in the market are used for the acid attack which melts the skin and even bones of the victim. Acid attack is such a heinous form of crime which makes the life of the victim miserable.
Section 326A, IPC is read as follows:
326A: Whoever causes permanent or partial damage or deformity to, or burns 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.
Explanation 1.- For the purposes of ….. this section, “acid” includes any substance which has acidic or corrosive character or burning nature, that is capable of causing bodily injury leading to scars or disfigurement or temporary or permanent disability.
Explanation 2.- For the purposes of ….. this section, permanent or partial damage or deformity shall not be required to be irreversible.’.
Section 326B IPC is read as under:
326B: Whoever throws or attempts to throw acid on any person or attempts to administer acid to any person, or attempts to use any other means, with the intention of causing permanent of partial damage or deformity of burns or maiming or disfigurement or disability or grievous hurt to that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for aterm which shall not be less than five years, but which may extent to seven years and also be liable to fine.
Explanation 1.- For the purposes of section 326 A and this section, “acid” includes any substance which has acidic or corrosive character or burning nature, that is capable of causing bodily injury leading to scars or disfigurement or temporary or permanent disability.
Explanation 2.- For the purposes of section 326 A and this section, permanent or partial damage or deformity shall not be required to be irreversible.’.
The most notable effects of an acid attack are the lifelong bodily disfigurement. An acid attack is a form of violent assault by throwing corrosive substance onto the body of another person with the intention to disfigure the body. Mainly acid is thrown at the face of the victim, burning them, and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the bones. The long consequence of such type of attack is that it makes the person blind, as well as permanent scarring of the face and body. The acid attack makes the life of the person worse and it also affects their social, economic and psychological life.
The medical effects of acid attacks are extensive. Acid attack is not which can easily be recovered up, as the majority of acid attacks are aimed at the face so, it depends upon the concentration of the acid and the period of time before the acid is thoroughly washed off with water or neutralized with a neutralizing agent. The acid attack makes our body paralyzed as it rapidly eats away our skin, the layer of fat beneath the skin, and in some cases even the underlying bones. Eyelids and lips may be completely destroyed, the nose and ears severely damaged.
LAW IN OTHER COUNTRIES
A Situational Analysis Acid attacks have been documented in various different parts of the world including Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Italy, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Uganda, UK, USA, and Vietnam. However, the number of incidences in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Cambodia and Uganda are much higher and are on the rise. Certain social and cultural issues responsible for these attacks have been “refusals of a relationship or marriage proposal, failures of a girl to bring a dowry to her husband, marital disputes, family disputes, political rivalries, land disputes and the accidental presence of the victims at the scene.” 1
Most of the reasons are specifically related to gender and are common reasons in countries like Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Cambodia, and Uganda; where other crimes against women like dowry-related crimes, domestic violence and honour crimes exist. In fact in India, it has been said that “acid attacks on women are a systemic form of gendered sexual violence. Unlike acid attacks on men, these attacks are used as a weapon to silence and control women by destroying what is constructed as the primary constituent of her identity, i.e., her body. It is important than for any campaign against acid attacks to mobilize public opinion towards recognizing acid attacks as a form of gendered sexual violence and more importantly to recognize the patriarchal notions underlying these attacks”. 2
Furthermore, depicting country-specific trends is useful while drawing up an appropriate legislation to address the problem. For instance, as many of cases of acid violence in Cambodia occur in the household, the crime has been proposed to be addressed in their Domestic Violence Act. A similar approach was taken in Bangladesh in 1995 when the government initially thought acid attacks to be a gender-specific crime and passed the Cruelty to Women and Children Act. In 2000 the Prevention of Oppression against Women and Children Act again dealt with acid attacks on women and children. However, the rise in trends of acid violence against men that ensued in the late 1900s made it necessary for the Bangladeshi government to pass a law that dealt with the crime against both women and men in specific terms. Hence, in 2002 two new laws, the Acid Offences Prevention Act 2002 and Acid Control Act were enacted in 2002 to address the growing problem. 3
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.
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.
FACTORS LEADING TO SECTION 326A IPC
Section 326 of the I.P.C, which deals with causing grievous hurt by throwing off a corrosive substance etc., is insufficient/ inadequate to deal with the issue.
1. The definition of grievous hurt is not broad enough to cover the various kinds of injuries which are inflicted during acid attacks.
2. The section does not cover the act of administering acid.
3. The section gives a wide discretion to the courts as far as punishment is concerned. The cases on acid attacks in India show that normally inadequate punishment is awarded in these cases.
4. The section in the I.P.C does not punish the intentional act of throwing of acid if no injuries occur.
5. The section also does not specify who the fine should be awarded to
SOME CASES BEFORE THE INCLUSION OF THE SECTION 326A OF IPC
In Marepally Venkata Sree Nagesh V. State of A.P., 4 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 v. The State 5 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 v. Joseph Rodrigues 6 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.
Parivartan Kendra v. Union of India, 7, in 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, the 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 to 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.
Laxmi v. Union of India 8 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 9 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.
In the series of the judgment in the petition filed by an acid attack victim, the Supreme Court has issued several guidelines for regulating the sale of acid in open market, medical treatment of the victim, their habilitation and payment of compensation for the injuries sustained.
1. Retail sale of acid should be regulated under the existing law, i.e., the Poison Act, 1919 by framing proper guidelines for their sale, storage and use. Most of the states have framed regulations thereof. Till these regulations are framed by the states, the guidelines framed by the SC shall apply.
2. Full medical assistance should be provided to the victims of acid attack and that private hospital should also provide free medical treatment to such victims.
3. No hospitals/clinic, including private hospitals, shall refuse treatment citing lack of specialized facilities. First-aid must be administered to the victim and after stabilization; the victim/patient could be shifted to a specialized facility for further treatment. Action may be taken against the hospital/clinic for refusal to treat victims of acid attacks and other crime in contravention of the provisions of section 357-C, Cr.P.C., 1973. 10
4. In case of any compensation claim made by an acid attack victim, the matter will be taken up by the District Legal Service Authority, which will include District Judge and such co-opted persons who the District Judge feels will be of assistance, particularly the District Magistrate, the Superintendent of Police and the Civil Surgeon or the Chief Medical Officer of that District or their nominee. This body will function as the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board for all purposes.
5. The amount of compensation will not be less than Rs. 3 Lakhs out of which Rs. 1 Lakh will be given within 15 days of the incident. 11
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.
PUNISHMENT AND PROCEDURE
The offence under section 326A carries a minimum punishment of 10 years’ imprisonment which may go up to life imprisonment and fine. The amount of fine which shall payable to the victim shall be sufficient to meet the medical expense of the treatment of the victim.
The offence under section 326B is punishable with a minimum punishment of five years’ imprisonment which may go up to seven years and fine.
Both the offence is cognizable, non-bailable and triable by the Court of Sessions.
• 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.
“Section 114 B: Presumption as to acid attack-If a person has thrown acid on, or administered acid to, another person the court shall presume that such an act has been done with the intention of causing, or with the knowledge that such an act is likely to cause such hurt or injury as is mentioned in Section 326 A of the Indian Penal Code.” 12
• 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.
An acid attack has long-lasting consequences on the life of the victim who faces perpetual torture, permanent damage and other problems for the rest of her life. Their living life becomes like a gutter; they become too traumatized and embarrassed to walk out of their house and carry out simple tasks let alone get married, have children, get a job, go to school, etc. Even if they are willing to pursue a normal life, there is no guarantee that society itself will treat them as normal human beings given their appearance and disabilities after an attack. They may not be able to work, or be able to find a job, and thus perpetually struggle to survive. Therefore, to curb attacks on women harsh punishment should be given to a person so that they feel the same as the victim feels.
The Crime of an Acid attack is not on a small range, day by day the crime of acid attack is increasing so instead of making such useless law the government should take appropriate action which actually will help the victim.
1. Internet Edition Holiday, The acid violence against women, Shadnaz Khan, May 27, 2005
2. Burnt not Destroyed-Report by CSAAAW.
3. LAW COMMISSION OF INDIA Report submitted to the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India for its consideration in the pending proceedings filed by one Laxmi in W.P. (Crl.) No. 129 of 2006 ON “The Inclusion of Acid Attacks as Specific Offences in the Indian Penal Code and a law for Compensation for Victims of Crime” July 2008.
4. (2002) Cri.L.J. 3625.
5. 1987 (1) Crimes 314.
6. State of Karnataka by Jalahalli Police Station v. Joseph Rodrigues Decided in the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala on 22/8/2006.
7.(2015) 13 SCALE 325.
8 (2014) 4 SCC 427.
9 Code of Criminal Procedure,1973 by Act 5 of 2009.
10 Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013.
11 Laxmi v. Union of India, (2014) 4SCC 427.
12 Supra note, iii.
- Pillai, P S A. Criminal Law. Gurgaon: Lexis Nexis, 2015.
- Gandhi, B M. Indian Penal Code. Ed. K A Pandey. 4th. Lucknow: Eastern Book Company, 2017.