Law on Acid Attacks in India

  • Due to an acid assault in Delhi, the horrible crime of acid attacks and the accessibility of corrosive substances have once again come into sharp attention.
  • An acid attack, also known as an acid throwing, vitriol attack, or vitriolage, is a type of violent assault in which the victim is subjected to acid or another material that is equally corrosive being thrown over the victim’s body.
  • It intends to torture, kill, or disfigure people.
  • The victims of these attacks are typically struck in the face with corrosive liquids that burn and damage skin tissue, frequently exposing and occasionally dissolving the bones.
  • Sulphuric and nitric acid are the two types of acid that are most frequently utilised in these attacks.
  • While occasionally employed, hydrochloric acid is significantly less harmful.

How prevalent are acid attacks in India?

  • Despite being abhorrent, acid attacks on women are not as common as other crimes against women.
  • The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has collated statistics showing that 150 similar occurrences were reported in 2019, 105 in 2020, and 102 in 2021.
  • The biggest number of these instances are continuously reported in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, accounting for close to 50% of all cases in the nation on an annual basis.
  • In 2019, 83% of acid attacks resulted in charges being filed, and 54% of those charges resulted in convictions.
  • The numbers were 86% and 72%, respectively, in 2020.
  • The numbers were reported to be 89% and 20%, respectively, in 2021.

The law on acid attacks

  • Acid attacks were not considered separate offences until 2013.
  • Acid assaults are now covered under a separate provision of the IPC (326A) as a result of changes made to the IPC.
  • Such assaults now carry a minimum sentence of 10 years in jail, with a maximum sentence of life, as well as a fine.
  • The law also specifies penalties for failing to provide victims with care or for police personnel who decline to file a FIR or document any evidence.
  • Dereliction of duty by a police officer is punishable by jail for up to two years, while denial of treatment (by both public and private institutions) is punishable by up to one year in prison.

Creating deterrence against acid attack

(1) Clear rules

  • In 2013, the Supreme Court issued a ruling regulating the sale of caustic substances after taking notice of acid attacks.
  • Based on the directive, the MHA created the Model Poisons Possession and Sale Rules, 2013 in accordance with The Poisons Act, 1919, and issued a directive to all states on how to govern acid sales.
  • Given that states had jurisdiction over the issue, it requested that they develop their own regulations based on model regulations.

(2) Regulation of acid sale

  • MHA issued a warning to all states in 2015 to quicken the criminal justice process in cases of acid assaults.
  • The MHA’s guidelines and the model rules state that over-the-counter sales of acid are prohibited unless the seller keeps a logbook or register documenting those sales.
  • The information of the person to whom acid is supplied, the amount sold, the person’s address, and the justification for obtaining acid were all to be recorded in this notebook.
  • Additionally, the purchaser must provide documentation proving that they are older than 18 years old.

(3) Effective monitoring

  • Additionally, sellers must notify the relevant Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) of all acid stock within 15 days of discovering any stock that has not been reported.
  • For a violation of any of the instructions, the SDM has the authority to seize the stock and, if necessary, impose a fine of up to Rs 50,000.

Rules for victim compensation and care

  • Free care: States are required to make sure that any hospital, public or private, that treats acid attack victims provides free care.
  • Aftercare and rehabilitation: In accordance with Supreme Court directives, the MHA requested states to guarantee that the State Government or UT in question pays acid attack victims at least Rs. 3 lakhs in compensation.
  • Funding for NGOs: MHA recommended that states include social integration programmes for victims, for which NGOs might get funding to only handle their rehabilitation needs.

Preventing such attacks

  • The laws governing the sale of acid are still expanding, although they mostly aid in finding the accused rather than in preventing crime.
  • Regulatory stumbling blocks In many locations, acid is still readily available. Then, these crimes are motivated crimes. Most of the time, the accused is not even considering the implications.

Way ahead

  • The situation is getting better as a result of shifting social norms and police efforts to curb crimes against women.
  • But society will always have the answer to this issue.
  • We need to raise awareness. Parents need to instil in their kids the value of limits and consent.
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