Copyright © 2020 - Ex Gratia Law Journal

Acid Attack

INTRODUCTION:

From using acids like Salicylic acid, Glycolic acid, Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) in a variety of skin care products in assisting men & women to take care of their skin, and look more confident and beautiful to selling highly concentrated and extremely corrosive Hydrochloric acid (HCl), Nitric acid (HNO3), Sulphuric acid (H2SO4) and many other acids over the counter, knowing and being completely  aware of what they are capable of. The sale of these acids, which are also easily accessible to anyone without prior screening or accountability ends up shattering her/his soul for eternity. Ms. Laxmi, One amongst the endless list of the acid attack victims and a survivor initiated a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) appealing to the dharmic soul of the Supreme Court of India, which in turn ruled in Laxmi v. Union of India & Ors,[1] directing all State governments and Union territories to carry out necessary amendments in the Poisons Act to make the sale of such dangerous acids inaccessible to the general public. In spite of all the States and Union Territories obliging the order issued by the Supreme Court, the effect of the amendment remains unclear and in most cases ineffective, thereby making India top the list when it comes to acid attacks.

THE AFTERMATH OF ACID ATTACK:

Acid attacks are heinous physical attacks, carried out with an intention to torture, disfigure or even kill a person at times. It is a particularly devastating form of violence affiliated with severe and permanent disfigurement and sometimes blindness. Apart from permanent physical damage and deformities caused, it irreparably affects the emotional and psychological health of the victims and their family members. People surrounding the victim and the personal care takers of the victim are equally affected and live with the trauma like a collateral victim. In my opinion, the most hideous of all crimes are rape and acid attack, both violating the physical freedom guaranteed by the fundamental rights under the Constitution. Acid attack is a gruesome act inflicted by the human race upon themselves.

Why do these horrid actions repeat in a vicious, endless circle? Just because a woman did not cooperate to sexual favours? Or because she denied an offer to marry or accept a proposal? This is a heinous crime committed against all genders, men are also victims. Such attacks are highly under-reported.

GENDER BASED CRIMES – NOT REALLY GENDER BASED ANYMORE:

Are you looking for this?  Street Crime – Lack of street lights or Minor punishment?

The father of our nation once said that, “India will be free when the women feel safe to walk in the streets of India at midnight”. This kind of freedom is still a far cry because not just women, but men are equally vulnerable to all the gruesome acts committed. In my opinion, India has the best Constitution written in the entire world, adapting constantly with the changing needs of our society, a beautiful flexible script with a humane spirit imbibed in its every fiber. However, none of the laws enacted in India provide for any safety or security measures to its citizens to protect themselves against continuing acid attacks. Equality is not just about uplifting women, or equal pay at workplaces, but is equal protection in the eyes of law. The traditional roles are altered here and men also seem to need protection under laws for crimes like acid attacks and rapes. This makes these crimes transcend beyond any gender lines and has become a crime against humanity, like murder, thereby warranting strict laws and measures in place to curb and completely eradicate anymore occurrences of acid attacks. 

STATISTICS:

The statistics and the rate at which this crime is being committed is gut wrenching. Through the light cast by films like ‘Uyare’ and ‘Chhapaak’, which are often based on the real lives of acid attack survivors, our attention is brought to the current statistics and data on women, and acid attack accidents. Even though there are fast-track courts created for speedy trials and justice delivery, the path to justice continues to be long, tiresome and exhausting, leaving the victims no other choice but to abandon the fight midway to retain some peace and hope left in their lives. Survivor, Ritu Saini, who was barely 17 when she was attacked by her 39-year old cousin on her way to volleyball practice conveys her frustration by stating that, “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?”  After fighting long battles within themselves, these brave survivors try to start a fresh life; the least the society could do is to not criticise and alienate them. Unfortunately, that is the treatment they receive when they come out in public, for people only ogle at their deformed figure. They fail to see beyond the acid-scarred skin into their grieving hearts, thereby leaving their souls deeply scarred for eternity. In such cases, the government is trying to help the victims by way of Victim Compensation Schemes, which are in place to help the victims and give them a chance at a normal life. For instance, the Uttarakhand State Government has announced a pension scheme for acid attack survivors.

Are you looking for this?  State Police versus Central Bureau of Investigation

About 300 cases are reported each year, but the real figure is not even close because a majority of the cases go unreported. The rate of conviction has been increasing at a slow but steady rate for the past four years, but the number of cases that remain unsolved keep piling up each day. Due to the weary process and lack of funds and support from family in some instances, many cases are abandoned in the middle of the investigation by the victims. As of 2018, the conviction rate was only at 3.36% which means only 19 out of 523 cases [2] were pursued through judgement and justice was delivered by imprisoning the attacker.

LAWS IN FORCE:

The Criminal Amendment Act, 2013 inserted Sections 326A and 326B and an additional clause under Section 100.

The additional clause under Section 100 of the Indian Penal Code says, “Seventhly.–– An act of throwing or administering acid or an attempt to throw or administer acid which may reasonably cause the apprehension that grievous hurt will otherwise be the consequence of such act”.[3] (Section 2 of the Amendment act)

Section 326A of the Indian Penal Code– Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid, etc. In addition to the fine to be paid to the victim, the section also imposes 10 years of imprisonment.

Section 326B of the Indian Penal Code– Voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid, etc. This section is to punish the offenders throwing or simply attempting to throw acid at a person for which the punishment is a minimum 5 years of imprisonment which may extend upto 7 years with fine.[4] (Section 5 of the Criminal Amendment Act, 2013)

CONCLUSION:

To prevent incidents like this from happening, every single child should be taught and made aware of this ghastly act by their parents, or through awareness camps, so that the child will grow up learning to respect a person’s decision. Laws should be made more stringent with no loopholes for an attacker to escape the eyes of law. Survivor, Ritu Saini’s attacker was punished with life sentence by the Haryana court, but he was eventually released from jail in 5 years. Ritu, who had just started to move on with her life felt devastated and did not even appeal this decision to the Supreme Court because she lacked the financial means for it and believed it would be another futile effort of seeking justice. 

Are you looking for this?  Analysis of Section 354 of IPC with special reference to Criminal (Amendment) Act 2013

Attacks like this will have never ending consequences on the lives of the victims. We, as a part of this society, should not make it any harder for them as they are already facing battles that no one can imagine in his/her wildest dreams. We should care for them, support them, and give them the proper opportunities they deserve as we are nobody to deny a person their rights or discriminate against them in any way. Most importantly, we should create awareness among the general public and educate the upcoming generations to prevent atrocious crimes like this from repeating.


[1] 2014 (4) SCC 427.

[2] Poorvi Gupta, India is failing acid attack survivors, SHE THE PEOPLE (01.16.2020), https://www.shethepeople.tv/top-stories/issues/india-acid-attacks-survivors-data/.

[3] The Criminal (Amendment) Act, 2013.

[4] Ibid.


Cite this article (The Bluebook 20th ed.)-

Gharishma Bashyam, Acid Attack, Ex Gratia Law Journal, (September 22, 2020), https://exgratialawjournal.in/blawg/criminal-law/acid-attack-by-gharishma-bashyam/.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Author

Gharishma Bashyam
Student - School of Excellence in Law, The Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University.