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ACID ATTACK: A DEEP SCAR ON VICTIM’S LIVES

By

Jothi Poorna s, II Year of B.B.A.,LL.B(Hons), from Bharath Institute of Law


Abstract

Violence and cruelty against women is an age old practice, and it is followed like a custom till date. Since it is an age old practice, it doesn’t mean it is not a crime. Does our country take any measures to reduce or eradicate offences against women? The answer is yes, it does by framing laws, but is this enough.


The main objective behind framing a law is to create fear among the wrongdoers and prevent them from committing crimes, but is the law able to achieve its purpose among the wrongdoers? It is still a big question mark. Even though there are many laws which are framed to prevent offences against women, the crime against them had never been reduced. In recent years, acid attack had become a new trend in case of violence against women. Acid attack is a crime which is committed within a few seconds, but the aftermath effect will leave a deep scar on the victim’s lives. The objective of this article is to understand why women are targeted by acid attacks? What are the impacts created by the acid attack in the society? What does the law say about the acid attack? What are the punishments given? What are the difficulties and sufferings faced by the victims? And what are the responsibilities of a society to prevent these crimes.

Keywords: Violence, women, Crime, Acid attack, Victim, Punishment.


Introduction

The Constitution of India promotes equality irrespective of the gender, but these gender equality laws are still only in names. It is a known fact that our society is a patriarchal one which favors men over women even though women are on par with men in every aspect. Violence and discrimination against women is not a new one, violence against women is happening on our day to day life, but many people chose to ignore it as a common thing.


There are many laws to prevent violence against women though the majority of women are not coming forward to report the violence and injustice happening to them. Whenever a debate arises about violence against women, the patriarchal society blames the victim for the cause instead of the real culprit who inflicted the suffering upon the victim, which is totally unfair and they substantiate it by saying a common quote “you cannot clap with one hand alone”. In recent years one of the cruelest violences against women is the acid attack which is prevalent in India. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 1,483 acid attack cases were registered between 2014 and 2018, between 2017 and 2018 a total of 596 cases were reported, with 623 victims falling prey every year, the statistical data shows only 149 people were filed charge sheet in each year [1].Acid attack not only disfigures the victim’s body, it also creates a barrier throughout the victim’s life which is very difficult to overcome.


Acid Attack & Impact

  • Acid is a corrosive substance (substance that contains hazardous chemicals). When it comes in contact with our skin, it will destroy (burn) our skin and cause immense pain, and sometimes if the chemical used has a higher concentration, it will even dissolve the bone. Acid attack is also known as a vitriol attack, perpetrators usually throw acid at victims with the intention to disfigure, maim, torture, or kill them


  • In India, the acid attack is gender-oriented, 99% of victims are only women, women are always considered submissive beings in this male chauvinistic society, so that they think that they can do anything with them, and it will not be treated as a big deal.


  • Acid attack has a long lasting consequence victims are traumatized and embarrassed to walk out of their house and carry out simple tasks. Even if they try to lead a normal life, the society will not let them live as normal persons. Acid attack rarely kills but causes severe effects like physical, psychological and social fear. The victim faces many psychological effects like trauma, stress, frustration, fear and also suicidal tendencies. In many instances, the victim may become mentally retarded. The survivors are often isolated from the outer world, they are ignored by their own family and relatives and taunted by them about their condition. This society treats them as they have committed a grave sin and refused to accept them.


HORRIFYING ACID ATTACK CASES

  • Laxmi is an acid attack survivor. She was a minor when she was attacked by three men in New Delhi busy streets as she refused to marry a man named Naeem Khan one of the trios who attacked her. She went through a lot of traumas and unbearable physical pain. Even after so many surgeries, she could not get back her face back as her upper body suffered a lot. The culprits were charged for the attempt to murder. The culprits were convicted by Delhi’s district court, but they later got bail from the High court. The victim felt that granting bail to the perpetrators was unfair to the pain she had endured. The victim filed a PIL in 2006 targeted at the easy availability of acid, no proper provision related to acid attack cases, including expenses, surgeries and rehabilitation for acid attack survivors. This PIL led for the amendment in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 in which section 357A was inserted for the compensation of the victim, amendment was also made in Indian Penal Code, 1860, wherein two sections 326A and 326B were inserted exclusively dealing with acid attack and the amendment of the Criminal Procedure Code led to the insertion of section 357C [4].


  • Farah, 25, suffered severe burns after Sirj Biwi, attacked her as she slept. It is said that she was attacked because of her failure to produce a boy and due to disability to pay her dowry [5].


  • In Uttar Pradesh a man poured acid on his wife’s genitals just because she refused to have sexual intercourse with him. The woman was in a serious condition when she was admitted to the hospital [6].


  • Recently, on Oct 13, 2020, three minor dalit sisters suffered serious burn injuries after an unidentified person threw acid on them in UP’s Gonda district. The sister aged between 8 and 16 years were attacked early in the morning near the Paraspur police station area of Gonad [7].


  • From these cases we can find the commonly used reasons by the perpetrators, they are:


  • If a girl doesn’t reciprocate the other person's feelings


  • If the dowry is not given as promised by the bride family


  • If the girl or wife refuses to get into an intimate relationship


  • If the woman doesn’t give birth to a boy


  • Due to racial and caste differences between communities


  • Due to personal vengeance


PROVISION UNDER LAW

Acid attack was registered under section 320, 322, 325, 326 and 307 of the Indian Penal Code. S. 320 defines grievous hurt, S. 322 defines voluntarily causing grievous hurt, S. 325 defines punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt, S. 326 Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means and S. 307 defines attempt to murder [8].

Previously these are the only Sections that dealt with acid attack cases, but after Laxmi v. Union of India, PIL S. 326A, 326B, 357A and 357C was inserted. S. 326 A defines voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid ( the minimum punishment is 10 years imprisonment and it can extend up to life imprisonment with fine), S.326B defines voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid (the minimum punishment is 5 years and it can extend up to 7 years with fine), S. 357A was inserted for the compensation for the victim or their dependents, prepare a scheme for providing funds to all those who have suffered loss or injury due to such an acid attack and need rehabilitation and S. 357C which is all hospitals whether private or public run by central, state government or local bodies should provide the first aid or medical treatment free of cost [9]. This is Landmark Case in which for the first time and acid attack victim received compensation.


The Supreme Court directed all states to pay the acid attack victim Rs. 3 lakh towards medical treatment and aftercare rehabilitation and Rs. 1 lakh within 15 days of an incident and the balance within two months after [10].


CONCLUSION AND SUGGESSIONS

Why does many victims are not come forward to report the crimes even though the law provides many provisions for the victim? The answer is they lost hope in the judicial system as we all know ‘justice delayed is justice denied’. There are Fast-track courts to handle acid attack cases, but they are not fast enough. Why don’t they pronounce a decision in two months” says Ritu Saini acid attack survivor whose attacker came out of jail within five years by the High Court order even though his punishment was a life sentence, Ritu who had moved on with her life found it time consuming, expensive and futile to challenge the order in the Supreme Court [11]. Why is this cruelty happening to women just because they said no? This society always blames the victim. This patriarchal society will always say don’t let the girls out instead of that. Our society should educate the boys and teach them how to behave and respect girls. If we want to create a better place for our future generation, this is a must thing to do.


Even though we have a certain provision under law, it is not enough if we want to prevent violence like acid attack against women laws should be more stringent and should create fear among the perpetrators. The best way to prevent these types of cruelty is by following the retributive theory “an eye for an eye” because the suffering felt by the victim cannot be described in mere words. If we make the convict feel the same way as the victim, crime rate will definitely reduce.