Restorative Rights and Rehabilitation of Acid Attack Victims: Case Studies from India
Written By: Shreem Thite
Gender inequality and discrimination in society are reflected in acid violence. More frequently than not, acid violence is perpetrated against a certain gender because they have disobeyed the so-called stereotypic gender norms that maintain women in deplorable social places. Following an acid assault, victims of the incident are stigmatized in society. Acid violence makes women fearful of being attacked if they don’t follow ludicrous customs that constantly degrade women’s roles in society. Victims of acid assaults suffer serious bodily injuries, defacement, suffering, mental torment, and long-term health issues.
Acid attacks are one of the most horrific crimes, with catastrophic and devastating consequences. It not only causes physical but also long-term psychological implications to the afflicted. According to statistics, the proximity of the perpetrator and the survivor leads to self-blame and social exclusion.
The number of instances reported by the National Crime Records Bureau between 2014 and 2018 was 1483 women, indicating a significant increase. According to the Acid Survivors Trust International, 15,000 occurrences of acid poisoning occur worldwide, with 80 percent of victims being women, making it a gender-based crime. In a report released in 2018, the National Crimes Record Bureau claimed that 228 incidences of acid attacks have been identified in India. The exact number of instances, however, is suspected to have surpassed 1000, but they were not reported owing to fear.
Rights And Remedies Provided To The Acid Attack Victims
Indian Penal Code
In India, acid attacks were not recognized as a separate crime until 2013. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 amended the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to include penalties for offenders of acid attacks and inserted section 326A and section 326B. This amendment established acid attack as a distinct crime with specific punishments for those who hurl or attempt to throw acid.
Throwing, administering, or attempting to throw acid on any person, regardless of gender, with the intent to disfigure or maim that person, causing permanent or partial damage, is punishable under Section 326 A of the IPC. The following section, Section 326B, makes it unlawful to throw or administer acid to anyone.
The penalty for administering an acid attack under Section 326A is a minimum of ten years in jail, which can be increased to life imprisonment at the discretion of the court. Attempting to throw acid on a person is penalized under Section 326B for a period of 5-7 years, regardless of the nature of the damage done to the victim. Compensation of up to Rs. 3 lakhs is available to the sufferer. The compensation should be paid in addition to the fine paid by the offender.
Criminal Procedure Code vis-à-vis Victim Compensation Scheme
In order to ensure justice, the Indian judiciary devised a novel notion known as victim compensation. By providing relief measures to compensate victims, the modern concept of justice has demonstrated genuine concern.
Following the United Nations Declaration of Basic Principles of Crime and Abuse of Power in 1985, the origins of victim rights began to flourish in the last several decades. Since then, there has been a growing recognition that the victim is at the core of the criminal justice system, and constant attempts have been made to better their circumstances.
Section 357A of the Code of Criminal Procedure has six significant sub-clauses that pertain to victims of acid attacks. Subsection (1) urges state governments to devise plans to compensate victims of acid attacks who require rehabilitation. This should be carried out with the help of the national government. According to Subsection (2), the District Legal Services Authority or the State Legal Services Authority (depending on the situation) may decide the amount of compensation that must be granted based on the court’s recommendation.
Subsection (3) indicates that if the compensation is deemed inappropriate for the victim’s rehabilitation, or in the case of the accused’s discharge or acquittal, the court may still prescribe the necessary compensation. Subsection (4) delves into greater detail about the victims’ rights. It discusses situations in which the alleged criminal cannot be located or has fled, but can be identified. In this case, the victim can file a formal claim with the State or District Legal Services Authority requesting compensation.
The proper functioning of the rights mentioned in Sub-Section (4) is discussed further in Sub-Section (5). It empowers the State or District Legal Services Authority to award compensation for the victim following a thorough investigation. Finally, Sub-Section (6) states that the State or District Legal Services Authority must make every effort to make medical care free of charge to the victim if the victim obtains a certificate from a police officer ranked no lower than the area’s magistrate.
In addition, Section 357B of the CrPC clarifies that the compensation indicated in the preceding section is in addition to the compensation already granted under Sections 326A and 326B of the IPC. Section 357C of the CrPC requires all hospitals, regardless of kind (local, public, private, etc.) to offer free emergency first-aid to the victim.
Role Of Judiciary Pertaining To Acid Attack Victims
Laxmi v. Union of India (2014 SCC 4 427)
In this case, the Supreme Court for the first time prohibited the selling of acids in retail outlets. This was also the first time the victim received monetary recompense.
Parivartan Kendra v. Union of India (2016 3 SCC 571)
Even after several regulations and funding were not provided adequately, the Court found that the government had failed to control the condition of acid assaults. Compensation of at least 3 lakh rupees was mandated.
Prevention of Acid Attacks and Rehabilitation of Acid Attack Victims Bill, 2017
The Prevention of Acid Attacks and Rehabilitation of Acid Attack Victims Bill was introduced in 2017 to establish measures to prevent acid attacks, including restricting the sale, supply, and usage of acid, etc. It also included recommendations for victim rehabilitation and other relevant issues. No one shall be authorized to sell, deliver, or transport acid without a proper record of their name, the amount of acid involved, and the reason for which it is to be used, according to this bill. It also increases the maximum penalty for acid assaults under section 326B of the Indian Penal Code to ten years in prison.
The success of any law is determined by how well it is implemented. Even after the implementation of strict anti-acid provisions, acid attacks have increased. Acid attacks are becoming more prevalent in India, indicating that a clearer, more objective, and punitive punishment against perpetrators is required. The existing laws do not account for the many types of injuries that can be caused by an acid assault.
Apart from that, it is also necessary to raise awareness about the rights and remedies that are available in the event of an attack. People need to recognize that a woman has the freedom to choose, which is especially crucial when it comes to sexual offenses like rape and acid attack. Instead of isolating and demonizing victims of this crime, society should support them by welcoming them.
About the Author
Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur, C.G.