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A Brief Analysis Of Acid Attacks On Women In India

An acid attack involves the premeditated throwing of acid on a victim, usually on her face. It is a gender-based heinous crime against women. In addition to causing psychological trauma, acid attacks result in severe pain, permanent disfigurement, subsequent infections, often blindness in one or both eyes.  According to the National Commission of India, an acid attack is "any act of throwing acid or using acid in any form on the victim with the intention of or with the knowledge that such person is likely to cause to the other person permanent or partial damage or deformity or disfiguration to any part of the body of such person".

Acid attack on women is increasing day by day, basically on the girls in the age of 11-30 years. The most common types of acid utilized in these assaults include sulphuric, nitric, and hydrochloric acid. . Several community awareness programs are being conducted by local authorities and administrative departments, to make people aware of this heinous crime. This paper wants to highlight the causes and impact of the acid attack on innocent women and the problems or hindrances suffered by the victims.

Introduction:
Women are an important part of our society. Every woman has her own job or duty in this modern society in which men are unfortunately still the 'strongest gender', we can't forget that a woman´s life is a lot more complicated than a man's life. A woman has to take care of her own personal life and if she is a mother, she has to take care also of her children´s lives too. Worse still, if she is married, additional stress can be on her shoulders. Yet they will still perform very well in the work environment in some cases better than their male counterparts.

"Violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women. Gender-based violence is endemic worldwide, cutting across age, marital status, religion, class, race, and thus poses human rights violations and huge health problems. In this paper, the focus will be given only to acid attacks especially in India.

Definition And Meaning Of Acid Attack:

As per the provision of the "Prevention of Offences (by Acids) Act 2008,(National Commission for Woman – Draft Bill)" constitute the definition of Acid Attacks and Acid.

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

 "Acid attack" means any act of throwing acid or using acid in any form on the victim with the intent of or with the knowledge that such person is likely to cause to the other person Permanent or partial damage or deformity or disfiguration to any part of the body of such person.

The Indian Penal Code, 1860 by virtue of Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 under the Explanation 1 of Section 326B 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".

National Commission of India, July 2009, Acid attack can be perceived as "any act of throwing acid or using acid in any form on the victim with the intention of or with the knowledge that such person is likely to cause to the other person permanent or partial damage or deformity or disfiguration to any part of the body of such person.

Objectives Of The Study:
The main objective of this paper is to study in detail the issues and challenges faced by acid attack victims in India
  1. To understand the meaning of acid attack and law enforcement
  2. To examine the issues and challenges faced by the victims of acid attack
  3. To highlight the policies taken by the government to overcome the challenges

Research Methodology:
The descriptive research methodology has been used to collect the data, the data collected mostly from secondary sources from various journals, books, articles, the government published annuals reports, website of different government agencies.

Literature Review:
Acid attack is a form of gender-based violence aimed at silencing and controlling women. The use of acid as a weapon began to rise in many developing nations, specifically in South Asia. The first recorded acid attack occurred in India in 1982. In many countries, acid attacks constitute a hidden form of violence against women and children that often go unreported and the true number of horrific attacks taking place does not come to light.

'Forensic Medicine and Toxicology:
Theory, Oral & Practical' (2006) by Rabindranath Karmakar, the author mentioned the permanent disfigurement of the head and face and permanent loss of eyesight. The book highlights the motive behind this heinous crime. The author also mentions the treatment of first aid that should be provided to the victim immediately after the attack.

Acid Attacks on Women:
An Appraisal of the Indian Legal Response' (2011) by Nehaluddin Ahmad, author in the article highlights the evil practice of acid attack. . The author wants to highlight the physical as well as psychological consequences of such attack, the author also covers the insufficiency of the law to give justice to the victims and the possible steps that can be taken to strengthen the law to deal with such attacks.

A Fate Worse than Death:
A Critical Exploration of Acid Attack Violence in India' (2015) by Aishwarya Deb and Prithwish Roy Chowdhury, the author in the article considers 'social stigmatization' and 'leniency of laws in punishing perpetrators' as a major reason why many such violent incidents go unreported.

Causes of Acid Attack
Male-domineering Society
Our society is a male-domineering society where men have always been told to domineer and women have been told to be subjugated. Women have always been considered to be devoid of personality. In ancient times, women were considered to be the property of the father, later she became the property of the husband who received her as a gift from the father, and when she became a widow it was the son who protected and controlled her.

In such a society where women have always been controlled and regulated by men, men are not used to hearing 'no' for a throw. The disavowal by a woman in some of the cases aforementioned has a great ineffaceable and adverse bearing on the minds of the men who have always been told to dominate in this male-dominated society and forces them to react in this most harrowing manner and results in acid attack cases.

Inexpensive and Effortless Obtainability of Acids
One of the primary causes of acid attack cases is the easy availability of acids in the market. People can easily procure it without much effort on their part from pharmacies, open-air markets, goldsmith shops, automobile repair shops, etc. Many people also use it as a common cleaning agent in their homes. Thus, it is easily obtainable. Apart from this, it is inexpensive also within the reach of common men.

Domestic Violence
Violence within the home is one of the leading causes that has attributed to the throwing of acid by family members on vulnerable and browbeaten women. In this male-domineering society, denial by women on anything or her vocal nature has been taken as defiance and rebelliousness by the husband or his family members and has resulted in such tormenting and traumatic incidents. It could be related to bringing of dowry, inability to bear a child, refusal to obey, refusal to have sex, suspicion, property disputes, family disagreements, etc.
 
Peer Jealousy
Jealousy is another pivotal factor that has resulted in such awful incidents. In this competitive world, everyone wants to excel in another person and be ahead. It could be in the business, service sector, or education sector. A person cannot see another person moving and going ahead at a very rapid pace. It is a matter of shame and ignominy that there are such incidents that have occurred on account of sheer jealousy, and just to bring a jolt and halt to the bright and prosperous career of another person, these means have been employed.

Vengeance by Rejected and Rebuffed So-called Lovers
This is one of the major causes for throwing acid on the victim. When a person is rejected of his marriage proposal or advances of a person are rebuffed by a woman, it is taken as spite, and out of vengeance, acid is used on the woman to teach her a lesson. For the committer, it hardly takes few moments to throw the acid on the victim and satisfy a grisly sense of retaliation against the seeming denunciation. These people fail to comprehend that the lesson that they are teaching is not temporary, but is permanent which spoils not only the looks of the woman but also has a devastating effect on her life throughout.

Safeguarding the Honor of the Family   
In order to shield the honor of the family, people have resorted to such barbaric acts and have used acid as a means to forbid women to retaliate against the accepted norms and ethnicities of the family.

Consequences Of Acid Attacks:

  1. Physical consequences:
    Acid burns through skin and flesh, layer by layer, causing great pain and injury. It eats through the two layers of the skin, into the fat and muscle underneath, and sometimes down to the bone, it may dissolve the bone. The profoundness of injury depends on the brawn of the acid and the duration of the contact with the skin - the burning goes on until the acid is scrupulously washed off with water. Further, if thrown on a person's face, acid speedily eats into eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. The pain is agonizing, as a strong burning heat cuts through the victim's flesh like a hot knife. Eyelids and lips may burn off completely. The nose may melt, closing the nostrils, and ears shrivel up. Acid can rapidly destroy the eye, causing the victim to be blind. Skin and bone of the skull, forehead, cheeks, and chin may melt. The acid usually splashes or drips over the neck, chest, back, arms, or legs, burning anywhere it touches. One study found that on average, the patient suffered by acid attack burns to 14% of their body surface area, with areas most commonly affected including the face (87% of the victims), head and neck (67%), upper limbs (60%) and chest (54%). Around a third of victims (31%) suffered complete or partial blindness.
     
  2. Psychological Consequences:
    A psychological trauma is suffered by the victim when she perceives that her skin is burnt off and after the attack the defacement and the disabilities with which they have to bear for the rest of their lives. Some of the psychological problems which the victims suffer are insomnia, nightmares, depression, fear of facing the world, headache, tiredness, fear of other acid attacks. They also feel despondent and worried as they think they turned an outcast from society. The victim's life gets derailed as every time she looks in the mirror she is reminded of her present insecurity as well as the despondency of the future.
     
  3. Social and Economic consequences:
    The victims who are not married are likely not to get married as they suffer from many disabilities like blindness, deafness, and many others difficulties and our society's mindset is not that wide enough to accept a disabled person as their wife. They even do not get a job notwithstanding being qualified as they cannot meet up to the expectation of their employers as not having the 'personality. Instead of helping them, we make their life more annoying, as we commiserate them as we do not like to look at their faces for long. However, this approach needs to be changed as they are suffering not for their wrong, but due to the fault of some savage animals roaming around the society freely.

Legal Perspectives Of Acid Attack In India:

In India, often incidences of acid attacks capture the headlines of Indian media. Unfortunately in India, there was no separate legislation to deal with acid attacks before the passing of The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act. 2013. The offense was registered under Sections 320, 322, 325, 326, and 307 of the Indian Penal Code (I.P.C).

Section 320 - Grievous Hurt:

The following kinds of hurt only are designated as "grievous":- Firstly- Emasculation Secondly - Permanent privation of the sight of either eye. Thirdly - Permanent privation of the hearing of either ear, Fourthly - Privation of any member or joint. Fifthly - Destruction or permanent impairing of the powers of any member or joint. Sixthly - Permanent disfiguration of head or face. Seventhly - Fracture or dislocation of a bone or tooth, Eighthly - Any hurt which endangers life or which causes the sufferer to be during the space of twenty days in severe bodily pain, or unable to follow his ordinary pursuits.

Section 322 - Voluntarily Causing Grievous Hurt:

Whoever voluntarily causes hurt, if the hurt which the intends to cause or knows himself to be likely to cause is grievous hurt, and if the hurt which he causes is grievous hurt, is said to "voluntarily to cause grievous hurt". Explanation - A person is not said voluntarily to cause grievous hurt except when he both causes grievous hurt and intends or knows himself to be likely to cause grievous hurt. But he is said voluntarily to cause grievous hurt if intending or knowing he to be likely to cause grievous hurt of one kind; he actually causes grievous hurt of another kind.

Section 325 - Punishment For Voluntarily Causing Grievous Hurt:

Whoever, except in the case provided for by Section 335, (Voluntarily causing grievous hurt on provocation), voluntarily causes grievous hurt, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 326 – Voluntarily Causing Grievous Hurt By Dangerous Weapons Or Means:

Whoever, except in the case provided for by Section 335, voluntarily causes grievous hurt by means of any instrument for shooting, stabbing or cutting, or any instrument which, used as a weapon of offense, is likely to cause death, or by means of fire or any heated substance, or by means of any poison or any corrosive substance, or by means of any explosive substance, or by means of any substance which it is deleterious to the human body to inhale, to swallow, or to receive into the blood, or by means of any animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 307 - Attempt To Murder:

Whoever does any act with such intention or knowledge, and under such circumstances that, if he by that the act caused death, he would be guilty of murder, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine, and if hurt is caused to any person by such act, the offender shall be liable either to imprisonment for life or to such punishment as is hereinbefore mentioned.

Attempts by life convicts - When any person offending under this Section is under sentence of imprisonment for life, he may, if hurt is caused, be punished with death. On 2nd April 2013, the Indian Penal Code was amended with the passing of 'The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013. The amendment resulted in the insertion of Sections 326A and 326B specifically for dealing with acid violence.

Section 326 A states:
Whoever causes permanent or partial damage or deformity to, or burns or maims 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 with the intention of causing 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 a fine. Provided that such fine shall be enough and reasonable to meet the expenses for medical treatment of the victim and any fine imposed under this Section shall be paid to the victim.

Section 326 B states:
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, with the intention of causing permanent or partial damage or deformity or burns or maiming 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.

Lacuna In The Indian Penal Code (Ipc):

Indian Penal Code has provided reassurance to these victims under Sections 320, 322, 325, 326, and 307. But it is seen that these Sections do not fulfill the profundity that is required for the earnestness of these offenses. Moreover, the term "acid attack" was not defined anywhere, and the provisions also restrict them to acerbic substances.

The United Nations General Assembly passed the Declaration on Elimination of Violence against Women in 1993, and India has ratified this declaration and is under an obligation to follow the same. Articles 4(f) of this declaration states that all member states should form certain recommendations, for the safety of women and formulate ways to prevent them. There should also be separate provisions for granting exemplary damages to the victims of the attack. According to Article 253 of the Indian Constitution, the Parliament has the power to make laws to give effect to these international agreements.

Hence India is under an obligation to rein in the peril of acid attack. Now it is seen that the definition of grievous hurt as given under Section 322 of the Indian Penal Code is not inclusive of certain circumstances of acid attack as the definition clearly states the injuries that constitute grievous hurt. Therefore, if the delinquent causes only skin damage to the victim of acid attack, with no substantial damage to other organs, it would not come under the compass of grievous hurt. Further, no provisions are there if there is a loss of income for the victim. Now if the accused is not charged under grievous hurt, then it will fall under hurt, which in turn invites a nominal punishment of three years imprisonment which is very immaterial to the massive loss suffered by the victim.

Further, there was also a lacuna that, there was no provision for penalizing the accused of throwing acid. In light of the above discussion, it was felt that there was a need to enact an effectual, efficacious, and specific legislation on the issue of acid attack and to cover all the loopholes that were present in the old existing law.

Amendment in the old Act: The Criminal Amendment Act, 2013 which was passed on the recommendations of the Verma Committee Report which brought into light the earnestness to deal with this acid attack offense. It inserted two new Sections i.e. Sections 326A and Section 326B in the Indian Penal Code. Therefore, the new amendment is a welcoming step towards restraining this crime.

For the purpose of rehabilitation, victims may also be given compensation as under Section 357A of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. Another laudable step that has been brought by the Criminal Amendment Act, 2013 was the inclusion of Section 357C to the Code of Criminal Procedure. It states that all hospitals, public or private, whether run by the Central Government, the State Government, local bodies, shall instantaneously provide first-aid or medical treatment, free of cost to the victims of any offense covered under Sections 326A, 376, 376A, 376B, 376C, 376D, or 376E of the Indian Penal Code, and shall also inform the police without delay.

One thing is very clear that mensrea is easily proved in an acid attack, which is sometimes difficult to prove in murder also. Throwing acid at a person's face is a deliberate act. It requires the attacker to procure the acid first and this proves that the crime is premeditated. Therefore, the attacker throws acid into the victim's face, fully aware of being aware of the ramifications of his act. This shows that the attacker's actions are completely willful. This can be a strong point while thinking of some stricter punishment in acid attacks.

Landmark Judgments Of Acid Attack In India:

Devanand vs. the State, a man threw acid on his alienated wife because she refused to cohabit with him. The wife not only lost her eyesight but also led to permanent mutilation of her face. Although the accused was held guilty by the Court, the punishment awarded was a minimal period of seven years under Section 307 IPC.

Jalahalli Police Station vs. Joseph Rodrigues case(22/08/2006), wherein the accused was convicted under Section 307 of the IPC and sentenced to imprisonment for life. A compensation of Rs. 2, 00,000, in addition to the trial court fine of Rs. 3,00,000, was to be paid by the accused to the victim Haseena Hussain's parents. The accused Joseph Rodriguez, the ex-boss of the victim threw 1.5 liters of sulphuric acid on her when she decided to quit her job.

The acid melted her face, fused her shoulder and neck, burnt a hole in her head, merged her fingers, and blinded her for life. This was the leading case as it was the first time that compensation which was quite a large sum was given to the victim to meet the medical costs including that of plastic surgeries. However, in many cases all through India, punishment often did not take into account the intentional and grisly nature of the attack but only rested on technicalities of bruises.

State (Delhi Administration) v. Mewa Singh, In this case, the accused was known to the victim. One day he passed some offensive and indecent remarks on the victim which was not liked by the victim, and her father and they admonished him. The accused became spiteful and threw acid on the victim when she was sleeping with one of her cousins on the night of 19 May. She sustained 40 percent of burn injuries.

The Sessions Court, giving benefit of doubt to the accused acquitted him. When the matter came to the High court in appeal, the Delhi High Court reversed the judgment pronounced by the Sessions Court. The court observed, Given the circumstances, discarding the sworn testimony of Gita is completely unreasonable. We are convinced that Mewa Singh accused was the person who had thrown the liquid on Gita's face and his guilt in this connection stands established.

One of the famous cases of this heinous crime is Laxmi Agarwal's case. Laxmi, a 27-year-old woman from Delhi is a survivor of such atrocious crime. Two men poured acid on her while she was waiting for a bus near Tughlaq road in 2005 when she was just the age of 15. She had rebuffed to marry one of her assailants aggrieved by which he left her disfigured for life. Acid had harshly burnt her whole face. She had to go through seven surgeries.

She belongs to a poor family and would have never been able to treat herself had she been not helped by a benefactor who bore her medical expenses of approximately Rs. 2.5 lakhs. She lost all her childhood, lost all friends, and became a school dropout. People mocked her and stared at her, blaming her by saying that she might have done something to earn the man's wrath. She spent eight years hiding her face. But she gained valor when India detonated in the indignation over a gang rape on a bus in the year 2012. Laxmi can never look the way she used to but she is still an inspiration to all such women who have been victims of acid like her.

She didn't lose her intrepidity and had advocated against acid violence by gathering 27,000 signatures for a petition in the Supreme Court of India to restrain acid sales. Her PIL sought framing of a new law, or amendment to the existing criminal laws like IPC, Indian Evidence Act, and CrPC for dealing with the offense, besides asking for compensation. She had also pleaded for a total debar on the sale of acid, citing an escalating number of incidents of such attacks on women across the country.

It was her petition which led the Supreme Court to give a remarkable decision regarding regulations on the sale of acid. Under the new law, a person convicted of an acid attack faces a minimum of ten (10) years and a maximum life sentence. She is at present the director of Chhanv Foundation, an NGO dedicated to helping the survivors of acid attacks in India. Laxmi received an International Women of Courage award in, 2014 which is given by US First Lady Michelle Obama. She was also chosen as the NDTV Indian of the Year.

Sabana Khatun v. State of West Bengal & Others, The victim in the present case suffered serious injuries due to the pouring of acid in her mouth by the accused. The victim filed a writ petition in the High Court as compensation was denied to her by the Chief Secretary of West Bengal. The plea taken by the state government was that the compensation can only be awarded to the victim on the recommendation of the State Legal Service Authority was denied by the court, and it was ordered that compensation amounting to ₹0.3 million be awarded to the victim and her family.

Suresh Kumar @ Appu v. State, It was a case pertaining to the rejection of a marriage proposal by a woman who was a software engineer. The accused known to the victim was a construction worker and wanted to marry the woman. The proposal was rejected by her as well as her father. The complaint was also made by them to the police and the accused was reprimanded. After some time, he threw acid on the deceased due to which she became blind from one eye. Later she died due to the infection. The Sessions Court held the accused guilty and imprisoned him for life under Section 302 in addition to 2 years imprisonment under Section 326, IPC.60 A fine of ₹0.1 million was also ordered.

Maqbool v. State of UP & Others, In cases of acid attacks, if the injury inflicted on the victim is simple, whether Section 326A,66 IPC, will be applicable to him. The court observed Section 326A carries the title of 'voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid' whereas Section 326B does not carry any such indication in the title regarding the nature of the injury as grievous.

But on close analysis, it can be seen that both the Section provides for eight consideration types of injury:
  1. permanent damage
  2. partial damage
  3. deformity
  4. burns
  5. maiming
  6. disfigurement
  7. disability
  8. grievous hurt.

The first seven injuries classified based on the normal after effect of the acid whereas the eighth one is on the gravity of effect. Under Sections 326A and 326B, grievous hurt is only one of the eight injuries. If the injury referred to under Section 326A or 326B is one among the specified eight injuries, whether the seven of them be simple or grievous, special provisions are attracted. The accused was held liable under Section 326A, IPC, and was awarded 7 years imprisonment.

Role Of Police And Judiciary:

The Police department in a country should ideally be a safe harbor for the citizens of the country and should play a proactive and crucial role to nab and curb criminals and crime. But in India, this view exists only on paper and not in the practical world. The police reaction to violence against women is revoltingly minimal unbefitting, even in modern India, where women are rising as leaders.

For example, one of the most common responses of police in respect of violence against women is that it is victim-precipitated. They keep asking all kinds of immaterial questions like about the dress code, why roaming in the darkness etc, as a result of that escalating the trauma of the victim. They are unsympathetic in their manners to deal with the victims of rape and other kinds of violence against women, notwithstanding Supreme Court's strict guidelines on the issue.

Acid victims also feel grudging to report acid attacks because they dread the harassment and the mockery from the police officers. Officers may orchestrate acid-violence investigations in terms of a woman's sexual history and questions of ethics. Several acid attack victims reported that their attackers suborned the police in order to influence the investigation. In order to deal with the callousness of the police officers in cases of violence against women, the Criminal Amendment Act, 2013 introduced a proviso in Section 154 deals with the recording of the First Information Report.

According to this provision, in cases of violence against women, the statement of the victim should be recorded in front of a women police officer. But there are very few women police officers in the Department. Women police officers should be trained to deal with the matter sensitively. Moral training should also be emphasized. They should be taught the importance of their job, to not only fight against crime but also to help fellow citizens.

Before the passing of the Criminal Amendment Act, 2013, the persons accused of the acid attack were not seriously punished, partially they were booked under hurt which invited a minimum punishment of 3 years, moreover, they were also released on bail easily. Sufficient compensation was also not paid to the victims.

In Syed Shafique Ahmed vs. the State of Maharashtra, a personal enmity with his wife was the reason behind a horrific acid attack by the husband on his wife as well as another person. This caused disfiguration of the face of both the wife and that of the other person and loss of vision of the right eye of the wife. The accused was charged under Sections 326 and 324 of the IPC and was awarded Rs. 5000 as fine and 3 years imprisonment. This case again shows that the punishment that is often awarded does not take into account the deliberate and gruesome nature of the attack and rests on the technicalities of injuries.

This shows the callousness and insensitive nature of the judiciary. But time has changed, and after Laxmi Agarwal filed a PIL in the Supreme Court, the Court also laid down some important guidelines, these are:
  1. Counter sale of acid is absolutely prohibited, until and unless the vendor maintains a record that contains the name of the purchaser.
  2. No acids should be sold to a person who is below 18 years of age. A proper ID card should be shown by the consumer at the time of acquiring the acid.
  3. All the stock of acids should be confirmed by the vendor with the concerned Sub-Divisional Magistrate within a time of 15 days. If it is not affirmed, then the goods will be sequestered by the Sub-Divisional Magistrate and a fine of Rs. 50000 will be obtruded on him.
  4. The acid victim should be specified a compensation of at least 3 lakhs from the concerned State/Central Government as the aftercare and rehabilitation cost. Of this amount, a sum of Rs 1 lakh shall be paid to the victim within 15 days of the phenomenon of such incident to lubricate instant medical concentration and the rest 2 lakhs must be given within two months as early as possible.

Financial Compensation and other benefits to the victims:
The constitution of India guarantees the right to life and liberty of every individual under Article 21. This has been interpreted to include the right to live with dignity and encompass the right to live with dignity including victims of acid attacks.

Article 41 of the constitution lays down that the state shall, within the limits of economic capacity and development, make effective provision for securing the right to work, to education, and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, and in other cases of underserved want. The rehabilitation of the victims also becomes an important issue.

Directions Of Supreme Court:
The order dated 18.07.2013 directed that the acid attack victims shall be paid a compensation of at least Rs.3 lakhs by the concerned State government or union territory as the aftercare and rehabilitation cost, out of which a sum of Rs. 1 lakh would be paid to the victim within 15 days of the occurrence of such incidence to facilitate immediate medical attention and expenses in this regard.

The court also directed that in case of any compensation claim made by any acid attack victim, the matter would be taken up by the district legal service authority, which would include the district judge and such other co-opted persons who the district judge felt would be of assistance, particularly the district magistrate, the superintendent of Police and the civil surgeon or the chief medical officer of that district or their nominee and the said body would function as the criminal injuries compensation board for all purposes.

On 21.08.2015 the central victim compensation fund was created with an initial corpus of Rs. 200 crores, the main objective is to promote special financial assistance up to Rs. 5 lakhs to the victims of the acid attack to meet treatment expenses over and above the compensation paid by the state and union territories, the subsequent objectives was to reduce the disparity in quantum of compensation amount notified by different states and union territories for victims of similar crimes and to encourage the states and union territories to effectively implement the victim compensation schemes notified by them under the provision of Section 357A of Cr. P.C and continue financial support to victims of various crimes especially sexual offenses including rape, acid attacks, crime against children, human trafficking, etc.

On 7.12.2015 the court directed that all the states and union territories should consider the plight of such victims and take appropriate steps with regard to the inclusion of their names under the disability list.

In the case of Renu Sharma, the Delhi High Court directed the Delhi government to provide free medical treatment to the victim and employment that adequately considers her educational qualification and medical status. In the case of Amanpreet of Bathinda Punjab, Punjab Social Security minister Razia Sultana had announced Rs. 8000 per month as per state government policy. The state government has undertaken a comprehensive policy to make acid attack victims self-reliant, financial assistance of Rs. 8000 per month is provided to the acid attack victim.

The only condition for getting the grant is that the disability must be up to the level of 40% or more, the victim must possess the disability certificate. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has directed all central government departments to ensure that one percent of each post be reserved for people with blindness and low vision; deaf and hard of hearing; locomotor disability including cerebral palsy, leprosy cured, dwarfism, acid attack victims, and muscular dystrophy, the disability must be up to the level of 40% or more.

The move to enhance the reservation quota for those with learning disabilities and acid attack victims comes after the passage of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, and the notification of relevant rules in this regard. Additional financial assistance of Rs. 1 Lakh from the Prime Minister National Relief Fund has been approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with an aim to provide immediate relief to the acid attack victim. This additional assistance provided from PMNRF will be over and above the amount of the scheme prepared by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) in consultation with the Centre.

Conclusion And Suggestion:
Acid attacks are the most pernicious form of violence that is reported to and is mostly gender-specific. While acid attacks are reported in many parts of the world, the incidents of acid attacks in India have been on the rise. Although commencement of law reforms in the acid attack legislation is a positive sign, yet there is a long way to go, to effectively implement these provisions. Though it is admitted that once the new legislation is enacted, it takes time to settle and is subsequently evolved by the dynamism of judiciary, some of the shortcomings faced prima facie needs to be addressed.

The current acid attack provisions and judicial approach to the quantum of damages are very restricted in view of nature and the gravity of the offense. A discussion has also been carried out on the lacunae in Indian Law and how essential it is to have a specific law in this regard. This crime appears to be a premeditated one which requires a tremendous ill-will on the part of the perpetrator, and therefore, should be punished severely. In addition to this, sound compensation for the victim is a vital provision for enforcing justice.

The compensation is very vital as the victim had to undergo several surgeries and various medical treatments. The compensation amount should be enough to have good medical treatment followed by quick redressal from the government agencies. Another important aspect that requires immediate consideration is the formation of new rehabilitation schemes. Better job opportunities, training, etc, should be imparted to the victims of such crimes, enabling them to at least meet their day-to-day livelihood needs. . Another effective measure could be greater awareness and more sensitive and mature handling of these cases by the media.

It is our sincere hope that the dismal condition of the legal apparatus with regard to acid attacks can be improved so that the victim's problems can be assuaged and the Indian society becomes a safer place for women. It is time to seriously ponder over these above questions.

The government should take more corrective measures on the sale of acid over the counter, as per the current status the shopkeeper had to maintain a ledger or register containing the details of the person to whom it is sold and in how much quantity.

The buyer had to produce a government ID card and should be above 18 years. The shopkeeper had to produce the ledger in front of the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) within 15 days but in case of undeclared stock of acid and improper ledger maintenance, only a fine is imposed up to Rs. 50,000, it must be followed by severe imprisonment also.

The educational institutions, research laboratories, hospitals, Government Departments, and the departments of Public Sector Undertakings, which are required to keep and store acid/corrosive shall maintain a register of usage of acid, and the same shall be filed with the concerned SDM.

Some checkpoints must be imposed in these above-mentioned places because in most cases acid has been managed from these places. The government should impose a severe punishment and the trial procedure should be minimized because in India most of the accused persons took advantage of the long trial procedure.

Reference:
  • Prevention of Offences (by Acids) Act 2008, (NCW – Draft Bill
  • The Indian Penal code, 1860
  • Criminal Procedure Act, 2013 (Amendment Act)
  • Campaign and Struggle against Acid attacks on women (CSAAAW)
  • NALSA (Legal services to victims of acid attacks) Scheme, 2016
  • https://www.thehindu.com
  • https://indianexpress.com
  • National Commission of India, July 2009
  • 226th Report, Law Commission of India, Proposal for the Inclusion of Acid Attacks as Specific Offences in the Indian Penal Code and a Law for Compensation for Victims of Crime 7 (July 2009).
  • Dr. Harish Verma (2012). Acid Violence against Women and its Socio-Legal Implications: The Indian Perspective, Civil and Military Law Journal
  • https://indiankanoon.org
  • https://economictimes.indiatimes.com

    Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Sarala Jayakumar
    Awarded certificate of Excellence
    Authentication No: JL118540885334-04-0721

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