Author: Vaishali Srivastava, III year of B.B.A.,LL.B from The NorthCap University.
Today, every section of the nation is brimming with various sorts of crimes like murder, abduction, theft, extortion, rape, domestic abuse, etc. We, humans, are only responsible for it. In all these types of crime, acid attack is one of the most common crimes of which many women are victims. The National Crime Bureau released a report according to which our country has reported 1483 cases of acid attack on women between 2014 and 2018.
An Acid Attack, also known as vitriol attack, is a kind of violent assault in which the perpetrator throws acid or any other corrosive material over the body of another person with an intention to disfigure, mutilate or kill them. Mostly, offenders throw acid on the victim's face that burns and damages their skin tissue. The acids utilized in acid attacks by criminals are hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, and sulphuric acid, all of which are readily available on the market.
This is frequently done to avenge rejection of sexual approaches, affair proposals, and so on, and in the event of domestic violence, it is frequently done by the husband or in-laws in order to extort dowry or to demonstrate their supremacy.
According to the report of Acid Survivors Trust International, 15,000 incidents occur each year, with 80% of them involving women survivors, making it a gender-based crime. Acid assault is such a horrific crime that makes the victim's life a living hell.
Consequences of Acid Attack on Victims
The attacker typically intends to humiliate the victim instead of killing them. The Acid assault has the most typical result of disfiguring the victim's body and disturbing their socio - cultural life. The long - standing effect of such an attack is to blind the victim and to make the body and the face permanently scarred.
It affects not only their social life but also their mental, emotional and psychological health, causing them to feel excluded from society because of their disrupted physical appearance.
Acid assaults have a wide range of medical consequences. Because the majority of acid attacks are aimed at the face, it depends on the concentration of the acid and the amount of time before the acid is properly rinsed off with water or neutralized with a neutralizing agent. The acid attack paralyzes our bodies by swiftly eroding our skin, the layer of fat beneath the epidermis, and, in some circumstances, the underlying bones. The eyelids and lips could be completely destroyed, and the nose and ears could be seriously harmed.
After recovering from an acid attack, survivors face a slew of mental health issues. Non-Caucasian acid attack victims reported higher levels of anxiety, despair and scored higher on the Derriford appearance scale, which assesses psychological distress owing to one's worry for one's looks, as compared to established Western norms for psychological well-being. Female victims also reported reduced self-esteem and higher self-consciousness, both in general and in the social realm, according to the Rosenberg scale (a self–esteem measurable scale).
Legal Aspects of Acid Attack
Previously, there was no explicit legislation in India that punished the commission of an acid assault. As a result of which the perpetrator was charged under sections 320, 322, 325, and 326 of the Indian Penal Code, alleging grievous hurt, and in circumstances where the acid attack resulted in the victim's death, courts have held the accused guilty of murder under section 302 of the IPC or attempted murder under section 307 of the IPC. Also, compensation was given to the victims, although it was insufficient to cover medical expenditures.
A girl Laxmi, one of the survivors of the acid attack, filed a PIL in the Supreme Court of India in 2006, asking for compensation as well as the creation of new laws and the amendment of any laws related to acid attacks in India. She requested a complete ban on the sale of acids to commoners in markets. The Supreme Court ruled in her favor and directed the federal and state governments to draught legislation on the subject after adequate thought and discussion. Considering the governments' failure to comply on this issue, the Supreme Court decided to take up the matter Suo - Moto in view of the gravity of the offense of acid attacks.
Also, The Law Commission, the National Commission for Women, and other women's rights organizations have called for a new law to address acid attacks. The 226th Law Commission Report offered its findings in response to the same 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.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 has inserted some provisions to deal with cases of crimes against women, including acid attacks. The applicable provisions in the situation of acid attack are listed below:
Section 326A of IPC – Justice A. R. Laxman in the Eighteenth Law Commission introduced this section. The section talks about voluntarily causing grievous hurt by the use of acid, etc. The wrongdoer under this section will be punished with imprisonment, which shall not be less than ten years and it may be extended to life imprisonment, and also with fine.
It must be noted that the compensation sum must be appropriate and reasonable in order to cover the victim's medical expenses. Any fine imposed under this section shall be paid to the person on whom the acid was thrown, in addition to any compensation paid to the victim by the state government under the victim compensation program.
Section 326B of IPC – This provision imposes on the accused who voluntarily throw or attempt to throw acid. The offender under this section will be punished with a minimum of five years of imprisonment, which may extend up to seven years and with fine also.
Section 114B of Indian Evidence Act - In its report, the Law Commission of India also proposed that in cases of acid attack, a different standard of presumption be incorporated into the Indian Evidence Act under Section 114B.
Section 326A of IPC reads with section 114B titled “Presumption as to Acid Attack” states that if a person throws or administers acid on another person, the court shall presume that the act was done with the intent of causing such harm, and with the knowledge that such an act is likely to cause such grievous hurt or injury.
Acid attack is a terrible crime that is dealt with not just by the IPC and the Indian Evidence Act but also by relevant laws in the Criminal Procedure Code. The act talks about provisions for the treatment of victims of acid attack, which are as follows:
Section 357A of CrPC – The section talks about "Victim Compensation Scheme," according to which every state government, in consultation with other state governments, must devise a plan for allocating funding to compensate victims or their dependents who have suffered loss or harm as a result of a crime.
The section also lays out a detailed system for determining the amount of compensation to be paid to the victims, as well as the mode of payment to be used.
Section 357B of CrPC – Compensation to be in addition to a fine under section 326A or 376D of Indian Penal Code – The compensation payable by the state government under section 357A shall be in addition to the payment of fine to the victim under section 326A or section 376D of Indian Penal Code.
Section 357C of CrPC – The section provides a remedy for the treatment of victims. It says that “All hospitals, public or private, whether run by the Central Government, the State Government, local bodies, or any other person, must immediately provide free first-aid or medical treatment to victims of any offense covered by sections 326A, 376, 376A, 376B, 376C, 376D, 376DA, 376DB, or 376E of the Indian Penal Code, and must immediately notify the police of such incidents.”
Role of Judiciary
Our judiciary took this problem extremely seriously and did everything possible to put a stop to it, which is admirable. In the interests of minimizing the prevalence of acid attacks, the Supreme Court established tough rules for state governments to create tight laws on the sale and purchase of over-the-counter acid.
Many restrictions have been issued by the Supreme Court, such as the fact that acid should not be supplied to a juvenile, or anybody under the age of 18. Also, the seller must first obtain the buyer's identification card before selling him acid. Unfortunately, even after the Supreme Court issued its rules, no one is obeying them.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court has stated that acid assaults are more serious than murders since they are "barbaric and merciless crimes" for which the offenders do not deserve pardon.
However, our legal and judicial systems have some flaws. Courts should conclude the processes in acid attack cases as soon as possible so that the victim does not have to worry because they are already suffering from mental and physical stress, as well as medical issues.
Acid assaults are still being recorded in many places of the world today. After the Lakshmi case, India is also on high alert for acid attacks. There were 174 occurrences of acid attacks in India in 2000, but the number has suddenly skyrocketed. Bangladesh, on the other hand, has the largest number of acid attack instances.
The Supreme Court has expressed concern about the gravity of the situation, but the government has not done so. I believe that the administration should express some worry about the situation. However, they have never taken any action.
The Supreme Court issued numerous rules to prohibit the sale of acid, but it is nevertheless sold in markets today and without any verification of the buyer's identification.
A total of 418 cases will be handled by the court in 2019, despite the fact that only 121 cases were presented to the court in 2019. This shows a low rate of case disposal, and, because of the pendency of judicial proceedings, which can take years before giving compensation to victims of acid attacks, further delays the goal behind redressal to the victims. Despite the fact that the laws have been effectively revised, there is still a gap in the application of the laws.
Women are no longer safe in our country as a result of the government's and citizens' negligence. I believe that the government should take some action in this regard and enact more stringent regulations. Despite the fact that the Supreme Court has issued numerous guidelines, they are not being followed. The government's silence here can be devastating to the women of this country.
In my opinion, India should take a cue from Bangladesh's government and pass similar legislation, such as the Acid Control Act of 2002 and the Acid Crime Prevention Act of 2002.
These few modifications will go a long way toward improving the lives of acid attack survivors.
An acid attack has long-term implications for the victim, who will experience constant pain, irreparable damage, and other issues for the rest of her life. Their lives become like a ditch; they are too scared and embarrassed to leave their homes and perform simple duties, let alone marry, have children, find a job, go to school, and so on. Even if they are eager to live a normal life, there is no guarantee that society will treat them as regular human beings because of their appearance and disabilities after an attack. They may be unable to work or obtain work and hence must constantly battle to survive. As a result, in order to reduce attacks on women, strong punishment should be administered to individuals so that they experience the same emotions as the victim.
The crime of an acid attack is not on a small scale; in fact, the crime of an acid attack is increasing by the day. Therefore instead of passing such ineffective legislation, the government should take proper measures that will actually help the victim.