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ACID ATTACK VICTIMS: DISFIGURING THE FACE OF THE COUNTRY

  “To face the society, face doesn’t matter”[1]

Words by an acid attack survivor.

INTRODUCTION AND LITERATURE REVIEW

According to Tania Singh, the C.E.O. of “Make love Not Scars,” [2]thousands of acid assaults go undetected, and only about 300 incidents are reported yearly. 

ACID attacks on women are the most horrific and heinous crimes reported to date. No matter a person’s age, gender, class, caste, sex, or religion, they could be a victim of this crime. Statistics, though, indicate that it primarily affects women. The most frequent causes of this crime, save in a few instances, are refusals to be married, denial to have sex, and rejections of romantic relationships by women. Deep-seated jealousy, hatred, anger, or the desire for vengeance against the ladies drive this murder. 

Lakshmi Agarwal is the name that most of the population has heard about. She says, “People say inner beauty matters, but in reality, only a few people go beyond physical features.” [3]Her experience is comparable to that of other victims of acid attacks. She must have felt like she was breathing in hell, but she could muster the courage and confidence necessary to tell her entire journey. There are various consequences of such a crime that acid attack victims face in their lives. 

PHYSICAL CONSEQUENCES

Acid has the power to dissolve two layers of skin. The bone is also broken down, in addition to fat and muscle, when acid is thrown or administered to someone. As soon as the acid touches the victim’s face, it eats away at their eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Lips and eyelids may entirely burn off. The person is in the worst and most immediate danger if respiration stops. Scars develop after burns have healed. The disfigurements caused by the burns are permanent and strain the skin very tightly. 

SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES 

The acid attack survivors experienced discrimination at every turn of their lives. They could leave their home because they were afraid of becoming a joke or topic of conversation. It was difficult for them to build self-belief and self-confidence because they felt they would be judged throughout their lives, primarily for their physical attributes. Unmarried girls were continually subjected to social pressures telling them that no man would choose to marry them right now. In addition to being internal, pain can also be imposed from without by the taunts and remarks of society. They are not regarded as legitimate members of society. For years, society has been discriminating against them. They are afraid of the negative attitudes that people have about them. These are just a few of the issues that victims must deal with regarding social implications.

ECONOMIC PSYCHOLOGICAL SCARS

It is very challenging for the survivors to become financially independent because of their physical impairments and disfigurement. All of them cannot work due to their injuries, for the victims who can work, finding employment is an arduous task. And because of their helplessness, they must rely on someone else to support them. Along with checking out the credentials, abilities, and background of the individual seeking the job, the employers also look for the appearance or the looks of the concerned person, which leads the victims to be unemployed. 

In addition to feeling shocked or traumatized generally, victims also have traumatizing thoughts and feelings about themselves, society, and everything else.

It happens as a result of the fear people experience throughout the attack. Throughout their lives, it is unacceptable to them that they would live in fear, with whatever impairment they have dealt with. They struggle with hopelessness, fatigue, weakness, and lack of energy for years, if not their entire lives.

LEGAL PROVISIONS AND JUDICIAL PRONOUNCEMENT

Causing grievous hurt by administering or throwing acid on someone is punishable under Section 326A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860[4], with imprisonment for not less than 10 years, which may also extend to life imprisonment accompanied by a fine.

The punishment for attempting to shoot acid at someone is outlined in Section 326B of the I.P.C.[5] According to this law, anyone found guilty of shooting acid or attempting to shoot acid will face a minimum sentence of 5 years, which might be increased to 7 years, along with a fine. The Criminal (Amendment) Act of 2013 [6]amended Section 114B to the Evidence Act [7]of 1872, which specifies that if acid is thrown or given on one person by another person, the court will conclude that this act was done with the purpose of causing bodily injury as specified in Section 326A of the I.P.C.[8]

In the case of Lakshmi v. Union of India[9], the victim (Lakshmi) was attacked with acid when she was just 16 years old. A man whom she refused to marry attacked her. In 2006, Lakshmi submitted a P.I.L. to the Supreme Court. She requested compensation in addition to new legislation regarding acid assaults and amendments to current ones. She pushed for a total ban on or restricting the market’s ability to sell acids. The Supreme Court independently developed new rules and decided in Lakshmi’s favour. According to the guidelines laid down:

  • Acid cannot be sold to anyone who is below the age of 18 years;
  • If you want to purchase acid, you have to furnish your photo identity proof.

In the case of Parivartan Kendra v. Union of India[10], a Dalit girl, along with her sister, was attacked. After analyzing the facts of the case, the SC of India came to a judgment that victims receive at least Rs. 3 lakhs in compensation; deemed the state governments negligent for their failure, despite extensive legislation, to manage acid delivery and keep it out of the wrong hands; observed that the States failed to follow the “Victim Compensation System” and gave insufficiently little compensation;

Accepted responsibility for assisting such victims and requested that the State make provisions for including acid attack victims in the disability list. Allowed Chanchal to receive compensation of Rs. 10 lakhs and her sister to receive compensation of Rs. 3 lakhs, to be paid within a three-month time frame.

Similarly, in the case of the State of Maharashtra v. Ankur Panwar [11](Preeti Rathi Case), the court noted that no one had received a sentence to date for this crime. Under Sections 302 and 326A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, [12]a petition was filed. In light of the seriousness of the crime and following past Supreme Court rulings, the punishment was altered from a death sentence to life in prison. In addition to the penalty, the courts mandated that the guilty pay Rs. 5000 fees to the victim’s parents.

Apart from IPC and the Evidence Act, Section 357A of CrPC [13]also deals with the crime of acid attacks. 

PRESENT SCENARIO IN INDIA AND AT THE INTERNATIONAL LEVEL 

Currently, more acid attacks are occurring in more nations. Acid assaults are most prevalent in Bangladesh. India, Cambodia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, and other nations follow it. The availability of acid and the execution of assaults are simple in Pakistan. But, a few other nations, including India, have passed laws to control the crime of acid assaults.[14]

CHANGING ATTITUDES

Violence against women is prevalent in many nations. Discrimination based on gender is the primary cause of violence. Gender assumptions and social norms support this violence. So, the best strategy to avoid acid attacks is to try to prevent them by addressing their underlying causes. Ending all forms of violence against women requires education. By educating and engaging with young boys and girls to promote gender equality and respectful interactions, prevention should begin early in life. The responsibilities of the federal and state governments extend beyond simply compensating the victim financially. They assist victims in reintegrating into society as part of their employment. They must exert effort to guarantee that victims receive certain rights. 

CONCLUSION

By briefly outlining my position on this matter, I would conclude by mentioning that, we are all aware that over the past few years, numerous bills have been enacted, laws have been revised, new amendments have been proposed, and multiple welfare programs have been launched. Yet, if we try to be completely honest, we all realize this still needs to be improved. The fact that this infraction is still so widely discussed even now shows that despite the efforts of the relevant authorities, it is still prevalent and steadily growing.

In addition to the people or society, the law should ensure that everyone seeking justice is promptly served. The saying “justice postponed is justice denied” is accurate. Reality is a concentrated acid that burns one from the inside out, as was already said in the introduction. This merely means that if justice is consistently delayed and denied to those who seek it, the entire system will eventually become so compromised that people will lose faith in the workings of our government. 

Author(s) Name: Rimi Gautam (Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University,Lucknow)

 References:

[1] Amrisha Dwivedi, ‘Acid Attacks- An Abomination of the Society’ (Know Law, 9 July, 2021) < https://knowlaw.in/index.php/2021/07/09/acid-attack-an-abomination-of-the-society/> accessed 24 March 2023

[2] Aarchie Chaturvedi, ‘Acid Attack: Disfiguring the face of the society’ [2020] IP 1.

[3] Ibid 1.

[4] Indian penal Code 1860, s326(A)

[5] Indian Penal Code 1860, s326(B)

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

[7] The Evidence Act 1872, s114(B)

[8] Indian Penal Code 1860, s326(A)

[9] Lakshmi v. Union of India, (2014) SCC 427.

[10] Parivartan Kendra v. Union of India, (2016) 3 SCC 571.

[11] State of Maharashtra v. Ankur Panwar, (2016) 3 SCC 571.

[12] Indian Penal Code 1860, s302

[13] Criminal Procedure Code, s357(A)

[14] Ibid 2.