This article has been written by Shubhangi Zite from ILS Law College, Pune and curated by Anjeeta Rani of Chanakya National Law University, Patna.
Today with development women are climbing the ladder of equality at a rapid pace. But being considered as a submissive gender by most of the men, it’s becoming difficult for them to even survive. There has been a widespread increase in violence against women all over the world. These majorly constitute crimes like rape, domestic violence, etc. and acid attack being the most horrendous and terrific crime amongst the all. These Acid Attacks have a gendered aspect to them because 72% of victims are girls and women between the age group 17-30 years. Most common acids used in acid attacks are Hydrochloric acid, Sulphuric acid, and Nitric acid. It is one of the most heinous forms of violence.
An attack with the use of acid sounds a bit odd though because a while ago acid was used as a day to day commodity in every normal Indian household. But for a few years, it has become one of the most gruesome techniques to hurt other people. When somebody attacks a person with acid, his aim is not to kill the victim but to disfigure and inflict tremendous pain on the victim’s body and mind which is even harsh than a murder.
There are many reasons for Acid Attacks but in 78% of cases these reasons were common:
- Rejection of marriage proposals.
- Rejected sexual advances.
- The showcase of male egoism.
- Misogyny etc.
As much heinous the crime is, much more horrendous were its consequences. In some Acid Attacks, women lost their eyesight, in some their bones melted because of acid, in some their face became so disfigured that it was hard to make out which parts were nose, mouth, and eyes. These were physical consequences but the psychological consequences made it the worst. Psychological consequences are more painful than physical consequences. These attacks have a deep-rooted impact not only on the victims but also on their families. Some victims were damaged to such an extent both physically and psychologically that they demanded euthanasia.
In India, the first case of Acid Attack was back in 1982, yet we didn’t have separate provisions for it till 2013. Earlier the offence of Acid Attack was registered under sections 320 (Grievous hurt), 322 (Voluntarily causing grievous hurt), 325 (Punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt), 326 (Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means) and 307 (Attempt to murder) of the Indian Penal Code. The punishment for Acid Attack back then was maximum for seven years along with fine except those who were liable under section 307 I.P.C. (they were given life imprisonment). Before the 2013 amendment, accused in Acid Attacks were partially booked under hurt and were easily released on bail.
After the suggestions made by the 226th Law Commission Report and Justice J. S. Verma committee, the specific provision dealing with Acid Attack was introduced on 2nd April 2013. The I.P.C. was amended with the passing of “The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013”. This amendment led to the insertion of sections 326 A and 326 B for specifically dealing with Acid Attacks.
Section 326 A states that “Whoever causes permanent or partial damage or deformity to, or burns 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 to cause 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.”
Section 326 B states that “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, intending to cause permanent or partial damage or deformity or burns or disfigurement or disability or grievous hurt to that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than five years but which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
In 2017, a bill was introduced to provide for steps to prevent Acid Attack by regulating the sale, supply, and use of acid, and other measures. Steps were proposed for the rehabilitation of victims and related matters. Under this bill, no person shall be allowed to sell or deliver or transport acid without a proper record of their identity, quantity of acid involved, and purpose for which it is to be used. It also provided for the increase in maximum punishment for Acid Attacks under section 326 B of the I.P.C. to the imprisonment of 10 years.
India being a developing nation lags immensely in protecting its citizens from Acid Attacks. According to the reports of the National Crime Records Bureau in 2015, there were 222 Acid Attacks which further increased in 2016 to 223 and 2017 to 244. Though, now, we have specific provisions for Acid Attacks but are we able to implement them? The success of any law depends upon its implementation and if we are not able to implement them then there is no use of having that law. Today in 2020 also, acids are sold openly in stores without anyone supervising its sale. Acid Attacks have such a huge impact on victims that they cannot be normal for their lifetime. They cannot go out openly, they cannot marry and nobody accepts them. The lives of these victims become so miserable that they end up ending themselves. There is a need for stricter implementation of such laws if we as a nation want to develop healthily and equally.