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Acid Attack Laws In India: An Analysis Of Legal Frameworks And Their Effectiveness In Combating Acid Violence

We are commemorating "Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav," or the 75th anniversary of our country's independence, and while our nation has achieved enormous strides in the areas of safety, education, and protection, we have struggled to shift our man-centric culture and its conventional thinking. The women in our nation are subject to many forms of sexism, hatred, and cruelty. One of the harshest and most heinous types of abuse to women is the acid attack.

This crime is performed against women of all ages[1], but young girls are typically subjected to severe anguish and agony by having acid thrown on them. Men can also experience acid attacks on occasion. An acid attack is when someone intentionally throws caustic material, like nitric acid or hydrochloric acid, at a victim's face with the intention of disfiguring, torturing, or murdering her. With the intention of permanently disfiguring the victims and giving them severe physical and mental suffering, acid is flung, sprayed, or spilled on their bodies and faces. The stress of not being able to recognise oneself in the mirror and the misery of lost attractiveness make the victim's agonising physical pain even worse.

The terms "acid attacks" and "acid" are defined by the "Prevention of Offences (by Acids) Act 2008" (National Commission for Woman - Draft Bill).[2]

According to Section 3[3] of said Act:
"Acid" shall mean and includes any substance which has the character of acidic or corrosive or burning nature that can cause bodily injuries leading to scars or disfigurement or temporary or permanent disability.

The Indian Penal Code, 1860 by virtue of Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 under the Explanation 1 of Section 326B[4] has defined acid to include: "any substance which has the acidic or corrosive character or burning nature, capable of causing bodily injury leading to scars or disfigurement or temporary or permanent disability".

Laws Related To Acid Attack In India

The purposeful use of acid to intentionally cause permanent or partial harm, deformity, disfigurement, burns, or incapacity is prohibited by Indian Penal Code, 1860, Section 326A[5]. The minimum punishment under this provision is 10 years in prison, with a maximum sentence of life in prison and a fine based on the victim's medical expenses.

According to Section 326B[6] of the Indian Criminal Code, 1860, it is unlawful to voluntarily throw or attempt to throw acid with the intent to cause harm. The minimum term for the criminal is five years in prison; however, the maximum sentence is seven years in prison and a fine.

Section 357-B[7] CrPC reads:
"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 the Indian Penal Code."

Section 357-C CrPC reads:
"All hospitals, public or private, whether run by the Central Government, the State Government, local bodies or any other person, shall immediately, provide the first-aid or medical treatment, free of cost, to the victims of any offence covered under section 326A, 376, 376A, 376B, 376C, 376D or section 376E of the Indian Penal Code and shall immediately inform the police of such incident."[8]

Legal And Policy Framework For Acid Attack Prevention

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees everyone is right to life and liberty. According to one interpretation, this covers everyone who has been the victim of an acid assault and would grant them the right to live in dignity.

Legislative Framework:
Since there were no special laws to address acid attacks, situations like these were often handled in accordance with section 326 of the IPC and other laws. The Justice Verma Committee, however, recommended that acid attacks be classified as a crime under the IPC and noted:

"The Gender specificity and discriminatory nature of this offence does not allow us to ignore this offence yet another crime against women. We recommend that acid attacks be specifically defined as an offence in the IPC, and that the victim be compensated by the accused. However, in relation to crimes against women, the central and state governments must contribute substantial corpus to frame a compensation fund. We note that the existing Criminal law (Amendment) bill, 2012, does include a definition of acid attack"[9]

By virtue of the criminal law (Amendment Act), 2013, sections 326A and 326B [10] of the Indian Penal code were added, providing for punishment to anyone who, by throwing acid on, administering acid to, or using any other method with the knowledge that he is likely to cause, permanent or partial damage or deformity to, burns or mains or disfigures or disables any part or parts of a person's body or causes grievous hurt.

Acid attacks are a devastating form of violence that have a long-lasting impact on the physical, psychological, and social well-being of the victim. In India, acid attacks have been recognized as a serious crime and the government has introduced legal and policy frameworks to prevent such attacks and ensure rehabilitation for the victims.
  • The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013[11]: This act amended the Indian Penal Code (IPC)[12] to include acid attacks as a specific offense. The act provides for imprisonment of not less than ten years, which can be extended to life imprisonment, and a fine for the attacker[13].
  • The Acid Control and Acid Prevention Rules, 2013[14]: These rules were framed under the Central Government's power to make rules under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986[15]. The rules regulate the sale, purchase, and storage of acid and make it mandatory for the seller to maintain a record of the acid sold and the identity of the purchaser.
  • The National Policy for Treatment of Rare Diseases, 2021[16]: This policy recognizes acid attack as a rare disease and provides free treatment for acid attack victims under the Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi scheme.

Policy Framework:[17]
  • Compensation Scheme for Acid Attack Victims[18]: The Ministry of Home Affairs has introduced a compensation scheme for acid attack victims. The scheme provides for medical expenses, loss of income, and rehabilitation costs for the victim.
  • Rehabilitation of Acid Attack Victims: The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has initiated various schemes for the rehabilitation of acid attack victims, including financial assistance, vocational training, and psychological counselling.
  • One Stop Centres: The Ministry of Women and Child Development has established One Stop Centres across the country to provide medical, legal, and psychological assistance to acid attack victims.
  • Campaigns and Awareness Programs[19]: The government, in collaboration with NGOs, has initiated various campaigns and awareness programs to sensitize people about the gravity of acid attacks and the need to prevent them.
In conclusion, India has introduced a comprehensive legal and policy framework to prevent acid attacks and ensure the rehabilitation of the victims. However, there is a need for greater awareness and implementation of these frameworks to effectively address the issue.

Challenges In Implementing Acid Attack Laws In India: A Socio-Legal Perspective

Despite the existence of legal and policy frameworks, implementing acid attack laws in India remains a significant challenge. Here are some socio-legal challenges that needs to be addressed:[20]
  • Lack of Awareness[21]: One of the significant challenges in implementing acid attack laws in India is the lack of awareness among the general public. Most people do not know about the legal provisions and do not report acid attacks to the authorities. Moreover, many victims are not aware of the compensation schemes and rehabilitation programs available to them.
  • Inadequate Investigation: The police often do not investigate the cases of acid attacks thoroughly. In some cases, they do not register the FIR or delay it, leading to the loss of crucial evidence. The lack of sensitivity and training of police personnel regarding the handling of such cases is a significant challenge.
  • Delayed Justice: The judicial process in India is known for its delays. It can take years for a case to reach its final verdict, leaving the victim in limbo. Furthermore, the court may grant bail to the accused, which could lead to the victim being intimidated or even attacked again.
  • Low Conviction Rates[22]: Even if a case reaches its final verdict, the conviction rates for acid attacks in India are very low. Conviction rates have been as low as 10% in some cases. The reasons for low conviction rates include weak investigation, inadequate legal representation, and loopholes in the legal system.
  • Limited Rehabilitation: Although the government has initiated various rehabilitation programs, there are still several challenges in ensuring adequate rehabilitation for acid attack victims. Access to medical facilities, vocational training, and psychological counselling is still limited.
  • Acid Control Regulations: While the Acid Control and Acid Prevention Rules have been introduced, their implementation remains weak. There are still instances of acid being sold without proper documentation or restrictions, making it challenging to prevent acid attacks.[23]

The Role Of CSO's In Supporting Acid Attack Survivors And Advocating For Legal Reforms In India:

One of the most horrific crimes against humanity is acid violence, often known as acid attacks. An acid attack has psychological as well as physical, social, and economic repercussions. Acid attack survivors frequently experience extreme social humiliation, economic difficulty, and loneliness. Civil society organisations (CSOs) in India have taken the lead in assisting acid attack victims and pushing for legal changes to stop such horrible crimes.

CSOs have been instrumental in helping acid attack victims in India get the care and rehabilitation they need. They offer survivors vital medical assistance, including as surgeries and skin grafts, to aid in their recovery from their wounds. To assist survivors, deal with the trauma of the attack and seek justice, they also provide counselling and legal services. In order to assist survivors in re-establishing their life and reintegrating into society, CSOs also offer vocational education and livelihood support.[24]

The Stop Acid Attacks campaign[25] is one of the well-known CSOs fighting for the rights of acid attack survivors in India. Since its inception by a group of survivors in 2013, the campaign has supported survivors, fought for their rights, and increased public awareness of acid assaults. Surviving individuals were successfully assisted by the campaign in obtaining medical care, legal counsel, and job training. It has also been crucial in raising awareness of the problem of acid attacks and promoting legislative changes. Moreover, CSOs have pushed for legal changes to stop acid attacks and provide justice for survivors.

Before 2013,[26] when the Indian government passed the Criminal Code (Amendment) Act[27] with provisions for sentencing acid attackers, acid attacks were not seen as a distinct crime in India. CSOs were essential in supporting this law's passage and in advancing efforts to have it put into effect. They have been striving to make sure that the law is strictly enforced and that those who assault people with acid are made to answer for their crimes.

CSOs have also pushed for other legal changes, such as tighter restrictions on the sale and consumption of acid. Because it is readily available and inexpensive, acid is a preferred weapon of aggression in India. To stop such attacks, CSOs have pushed for stronger laws governing the use and sale of acid. Also, they have pushed for improved reparations and rehabilitation programmes for victims of acid attacks.

To combat the issue of acid assaults in India, however, much more must be done, and CSOs must continue to play a crucial part in this struggle.

An Assessment Of The Effectiveness Of Acid Attack Laws In India In Reducing The Incidence Of Acid Attacks:

Acid attacks are a despicable crime that leave victims with significant physical, emotional, and psychic harm. Acid assaults are a major issue in India, where the government has passed a number of legislations to reduce their frequency. The effectiveness of these legislation in lowering the incidence of acid assaults in the nation must be evaluated, nevertheless.

The Indian government made a considerable effort to address the issue of acid assaults through the Criminal Code (Amendment) Act, 2013[28]. With a minimum punishment of 10 years[29] and a possible term of life in prison, this law made acid attacks illegal. The statute also required the regulation of acid sales and provided compensation for victims.

The number of recorded acid attacks in India has decreased after the law's adoption. The National Crime Records Bureau reports that there were 228 reported acid attacks in India in 2018[30] as opposed to 349 in 2014. This suggests that the law has helped to lower the frequency of acid attacks in the nation.

Nonetheless, acid assaults continue to happen in India despite the drop in the number of cases that have been documented. It is debatable if the law works to stop acid attacks from happening in the first place. Because acid is readily available in the market and its sale is still not strictly regulated, offenders have access to it. Moreover, the implementation of the law has been slow, and the conviction rate remains low.[31]

The social stigma that survivors of acid attacks face make it challenging for them to report the crime and pursue justice, which is another important concern. Another major issue is the dearth of services for support and rehabilitation for survivors, and many of them still experience economic and social challenges.

Although if the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013[32], has significantly decreased the frequency of recorded acid attacks in India, more must be done to stop such crimes from occurring in the first place. The regulation of acid sales needs to be improved[33], and the legislation needs to be strictly enforced. In order to eliminate the societal stigma attached to acid attack survivors, more awareness-raising and sensitization initiatives are also required. In order to offer survivors support and rehabilitation services and guarantee that justice is done, the government and civil society organisations must collaborate.

The Intersection Of Caste And Gender In Acid Attacks In India- A Legal Analysis:

Acid attacks are an example of how caste and gender-based violence coexist in India. Women from lower castes and underprivileged communities are disproportionately affected by this type of abuse.[34] In order to deliver justice to the victims of acid attacks in India, the legal system must acknowledge and address the intersectional nature of these crimes.

In India, caste prejudice plays a crucial role in the prevalence of acid assaults. Women from lower castes are particularly susceptible to such assaults since they frequently experience prejudice, oppression, and violence as a result of their caste rank. Attackers who use acid frequently target women from lower castes because they believe these women to be weak and defenceless. Thus, caste plays a crucial role in determining the vulnerability of women to acid attacks.[35]

Another important component of acid attacks is gender-based violence[36]. Acid assaults are frequently used as a form of retaliation or punishment against women who have rejected unwelcome approaches or disobeyed patriarchal rules. Women who are independent, aggressive, or defy gendered norms are especially susceptible to such assaults. Caste prejudice and gender-based violence interact to further marginalise women from lower castes and increase their susceptibility to acid assaults.

The nexus of caste and gender-based violence needs to be considered in India's legal framework for dealing with acid assaults. While offering legal remedies, the judicial system should take the survivors' caste and gender identity into account. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, which made acid assaults illegal, acknowledges the necessity of providing survivors with compensation and rehabilitation. To address the intersectional nature of acid assaults, nevertheless, there is a need for focused action.

To address the structural inequality experienced by women from vulnerable populations, the law should include affirmative action provisions. One such initiation has been started by the Acid survivors namely Acid Survivors and Women Welfare foundation (ASWWF). This Foundation Launched a Campaign "Silence will not protect women" on Friday.[37] The legal system should also make sure that women from underrepresented groups are fairly represented in the legal profession and in the judiciary.

The convergence of caste and gender-based violence is manifested in acid assaults in India. According to a legal analysis of acid attacks, in order to give justice to survivors, the legal system must acknowledge and address the intersectional nature of these crimes[38]. There should be targeted efforts to alleviate the structural prejudice experienced by women from lower castes, and the legislative system should be gender and caste sensitive. The legal system should also make sure that women from underrepresented groups are fairly represented in the judiciary and legal profession.

In conclusion, acid attacks have been a significant problem in India, especially against women. These attacks cause severe physical and psychological damage to the victims. However, civil organizations have played a crucial role in helping the victims by providing medical, legal, and financial aid, as well as raising awareness and advocating for stronger laws and regulations to prevent acid attacks.

In India, civil society organisations have been instrumental in aiding acid attack victims and pushing for legislative reforms. They have taken the lead in giving survivors vital services including medical attention, psychiatric counselling, and career training. Also, they have played a significant role in promoting legislation changes to stop acid attacks and guarantee justice for survivors. Despite the efforts made by civil organizations, acid attacks continue to occur in India, and the victims still face many challenges in accessing justice and rehabilitation. There is a need for greater collaboration between civil society, government, and law enforcement agencies to effectively address this issue.

Therefore, while civil organizations have made significant progress in combating acid attacks in India, there is still much work to be done. A continued effort is necessary to raise awareness, prevent attacks, and support the victims. Through collaborative efforts, it is possible to create a safer environment for all individuals in India, free from the threat of acid attacks.

  1. Sarala Jayakumar, "A Brief analysis of Acid Attacks on women in India", legal service India, accessed on 15 March 2023.
  2. 3, Prevention of Offences (by Acids) Act 2008.
  3. Ibid.
  4. 326B, the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  5. accessed on 15 March, 2023.
  6. 326B, Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  7. 357B, The Criminal Procedural Code, 1973.
  8. 326A, 376, 376A, 376B, 376C, 376D 376E, Indian Penal Code, 1860, passed by the parliament by law.
  9. accessed on 15 March 2023.
  10. 326A and 326B, Indian Penal Code, 1860, passed by the parliament by law.
  11. The Criminal law amendment act, 2013.
  12. Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  13. accessed on 15 March 2023.
  14. The Acid Control and Acid Prevention Rules, 2013, Act of Parliaments, (India).
  15. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, Act of Parliaments, (India).
  16. The National Policy for Treatment of Rare Diseases, 2021.
  17. accessed on 15 March 2023.
  18. accessed on 15 March 2023.
  19. accessed on 15 March 2023.
  20. accessed on 15 March 2023.
  21. accessed on 15 March 2023.
  22. accessed on 15 March 2023.
  23. accessed on 15 March 2023.
  24. accessed on 16 March 2023.
  25. accessed on 17 March 2023.
  26. accessed on 18 March 2023.
  27. Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013.
  28. The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013.
  29. The Indian Penal Code, 326 A, 1860, passed by the Parliament Of India.
  30. accessed on 18 March 2023.
  31. Sunil Kumar Mishra, "Acid Attack: An Inhuman and Scandalous Crime against Women in India", International Journal of Law management ad Humanities, Volume II-Issue III, 2019.
  32. Ibid.
  33. accessed on 18 March 2023.
  34. accessed on 18 March 2023.
  35. Sarala Jayakumar, "A Brief Analysis of Acid Attacks on Women In India", Legal service India, accessed on 18 March 2023.
  36. Singh Mousami, Kumar Vijay, Rupani Raja, Kumari Sangeeta, Shiuli, Yadav Pradeep Kumar, Singh Raghvendra, Verma Anoop Kumar, "Acid Attack on Women: A new face of gender-based violence in India", Indian Journal of Burns, Volume 26- issue 1, 2018.
  37. accessed on 17 March 2023.
  38. accessed on 18 March 2023.

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