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Scares of Acid Attack in Criminal Law Justice System: A Case Comment

Acid - A Weapon to commit violence against women - Case Analysis of Laxmi v/s Union of India (2014) 4 SCC 427

According to Thomson Reuters Foundation survey[1] India is the fourth most dangerous place in the entire world for women live in. I think the offences like gang rape , domestic violence and acid attacks are making it true .Especially acid has became a powerful tool in the hands of this men dominating society to curb the empowerment of women. It has become a threat to the peaceful existence of women. Acid is a chemical liquid which has ability to eat away the skin and tissues and can burn the bones, lips, ears, and nose and can take away her vision power and can completely disfigure her throughout her life. Not only the physical injuries she suffer even she may undergo depression and don’t want to show her face to this world and sometimes even commits suicide. Due to the easy availability of the acids and even due to lack of specific laws and stringent punishments it has became very difficult to curb the acid attacks. But still the remedy given by the law to these victims is far away from their medical expenses.

Till 2013 there was no specific law for acid attacks. The IPC Section 322,323, 320, 326,[2] were to be applied to this crime and the compensation which will be awarded to the victims stands far away from their medical expense. As there is a continuous rise in acid attacks there was an urgent need for a specific law for acid attacks. And this issue came before the court in Laxmi v. Union of India[3].

In this case Laxmi a victim of acid attack, when she was 15 years old met with an acid attack by three men near tughlaq road New Delhi. Her wrong was only refusing the marriage proposal of 32 years old man for that she was made to suffer throughout her life and the remedy she got under IPC was comparatively less than her medical expense. So she filed the PIL by seeking the new law or amendment to the existing laws dealing with acid attacks besides asking compensation for acid attack victims.

The Honorable Supreme Court in this particular case to regulate the easy availability of the acid came up with a regulations relating to selling and purchasing of the acid. It had made a regulation saying that while purchasing the acid one should show their photo identity card given by the government and has to mention the purpose of buying it. And the seller of the acid has to submit that to the police station within three days.

It directed all states and union territories to frame the guidelines to regulate the sale of acid.And the after this judgment the Indian Penal Code recognized the acid attack and attempt to do acid attack as a crime under 326 A and 326 B of IPC. And Criminal Procedure Code got amended and inserted 357 A and 357 B to compensate the acid victims. And by amendment to Indian Evidence Act Section 114 B was inserted.

Background of The Case
Laxmi Agarwal 24-year-old girl is an Indian campaigner with stop acid attacks and a TV host and she is also director of CHHANV FOUNDATION, a NGO dedicated to help the survivors of acid attacks in India. Laxmi now became the face of movement against acid attacks in India.

Laxmi born in a middle class family of Delhi. When laxmi was 15 years old she met with acid attack near tughlaq road in New Delhi. Three men came through bike and threw acid on her only because she refused to marry one of them.[4] It was very difficult for her to recover herself both mentally and physically .She underwent seven surgeries out of them five were carried out in New Delhi’s Apollo Hospital and Dr. Ram manohar lohiya hospital. The government didn’t extend their financial help for the treatment.

As there was no specific law for Acid attacks she got remedy under other provisions of the Indian Penal Code namely Section 320,325,326, as the victim of Acid attack and the remedy that she got stood far away from her medical expenses. While Laxmi was not able to come out of the home and under depression one of the convict came out by bail and got married within a month of acid attack.

Around three years she scares to come out of the home and underwent depression. After that however she gathered some courage and came out of the home and started keeping herself busy in tailoring and the arts of the beautician .But nobody willing to give the job for her. The only reason behind it was people used to get scared if they see her face. That made her to start the movement against acid attacks.[5]

She started her movement against acid attacks on 2006. She says that  We are not victims, but fighters [6]. She along with her campaigners went to meet Home Minister Shindhe to submit the petition. She shares the moment when she went to meet Home Minister,

 We waited for him for three hours, and when he came out he immediately walked towards his car. It was then that we stopped him and gave him our petition [7]

By her online web change.org she gathered more than 28,000 signatures to file the PIL .She filed a Public Interest Litigation in Supreme Court of India to regulate the sale of acid and to make specific new law or amend the existing laws like Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act, CrPC to include acid attack as a separate crime and to rehabilitate and compensate the acid attack victims.

Contents of PIL

The Public Interest Litigation had three pleadings before the Supreme Court of India, which are as follows

1. To frame the regulations relating to sale and purchase of acid in order to curb the acid attacks in India.
2. To make a new law or amend the existing laws like Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act , Code Of Criminal Procedure to include Acid Attack as a separate offence and to impose stringent punishment for convicts and fair compensation to the acid victims.
3. To rehabilitate and compensate the acid victims.

The first pleading that laxmi had before the Supreme Court is to make the regulations on sale and purchase of acids. The acid is a substance which will be used by many people daily like in medicals, in chemical laboratories, to wash the bathrooms people used to buy it. And the easy availability of the acid and its low price made it to be in easy circulation in our day today life. It is even available at nearby shop at 15 or 16 rupees per liter so one can buy it easily and these things made the acid attacks to grow. The nearby country like Bangladesh has already made regulations relating to sale and purchase of acid and even it saw the decline in acid attacks after the framing of regulations. So the laxmi pleaded before the Supreme Court to frame the regulations relating to sale and purchase of acid to curb the acid attacks in India.

The second pleading that PIL contained was to make new law or amend the existing laws i.e. Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act, Code of Criminal Procedure to include the Acid attack as a specific offence. As there was increasing number of acid attacks, there was no remedy exclusively available for acid victims till 2013 there was an urgent need of stringent laws which can fairly compensate the victim and imposes a heavy punishment on the convicts. It was the Section 322, 323, 320,324, and 325 of the IPC were to be applicable to the offence of acid attack.

Section 320 of IPC defines the offence of Grievous hurt as follows:

The following kinds of hurt only are designated as grievous
First –Emasculation.
Secondly. - Permanent privation of the sight of either eye.
Thirdly.- Permanente privation of hearing of either of the 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 the head or face .
Seventhly.- Fracture or dislocation of a bone or tooth.

Eighthly- Any hurt which endangers life or which causes the suffer to be during the space of twenty days in severe bodily pain, or unable to follow his ordinary pursuits. And even Section 324 of the IPC talks about voluntarily causing grievous hurt by corrosive substances were to be applicable and Section 325 imposes punishment of imprisonment for 7 years and fine.[8]

When we compare the loss suffered by the victims and these punishments given to the convicts and the compensation awarded to the victims under the provisions of IPC , we feel that these laws are not perfect one for to deal with offence of acid attacks so there was a need of specific law which can deal with the offence of acid attack. So laxmi’s prayer before the Supreme Court is to frame the new law or amend the existing law to include acid attack as an offence with stringent punishment and with fair compensation.

The third pleading of the Laxmi through PIL was to rehabilitate and compensate the acid victims. Because when we looked into the physical damages that the victim has suffered it is very severe one. It costs lakhs together for the victim to return back to the normal life. As we looked into the story of laxmi a girl from middle class family underwent seven surgeries and it costs her lakhs to gather and even government didn’t extended their hands to help her. As there is growth in the acid attacks there was a need to rehabilitate and compensate the acid victims

View of Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India took it very seriously. The three pleadings that brought before the Court by the Laxmi was very clear and Court understood the need for specific law for acid attacks. As our neighboring country Bangladesh has already framed the regulations relating to sale and purchase of acid to curb the acid attacks and has seen a decline in the acid attack encouraged the Supreme Court to frame the regulations.

Firstly in this regard on 6-2-2013 the Supreme Court directed Home Secretary .Ministry of Home Affairs associating the Secretary, Ministry of Chemical and Fertilizers to convey the meeting to discuss the following aspects:
· To enact any appropriate provision to regulate the sale of acid in that particular state or union territory
· To take appropriate measures to rehabilitate the acid victims and even for their proper treatment
· And the compensation payable to the acid attack victims by state or creation of some separate fund for payment of compensation to the acid attack victims

Initially various state Governments and Union territories have filed their affidavits. And even Central Government assured to the Court that it will sit with the all state Governments and Union territories as well to frame the guidelines to regulate the sale of acid .But it utterly failed to do that so now that is left to the Supreme Court to frame the regulations relating to sale and purchase of Acids.[9] Justice Lodha by criticizing the negligence of government said  Seriousness is not seen on the part of Government in handling the issue . So the Honorable Supreme Court by keeping the constitutional provisions of Arts. 21, 14, 15 and 32 in mind issued the guidelines. Under the new guidelines:

* Acid could not be sold to any individual below the age of 18 years.
* The buyer of the acid has to furnish a photo identity card before buying acid.
* The buyer has to mention the purpose for which he is buying the acid.
* The seller of the acid has to submit these documents to nearby police station within 3 days.
* The seller has to give the information about the stocks of acid to the sub-divisional-magistrate within 15 days.
* In case of undeclared stock of acid it will be opened to the concerned sub-divisional-magistrate to confiscate the stock and suitably impose fine up to 50,000/-

The educational institutions, research laboratories ,government departments and government departments of public sector undertakings if they are required to keep the stocks of the acid then they have to follow the following guidelines :
* A register has to be maintained regarding the usage of the acid and the same shall be filed with the Sub-Divisional Magistrate
* A person shall be made accountable for possession and safe keeping of acid in their premise
* The acid shall be stored under the supervision of a person and their shall be compulsory checking on the students, and person leaving the laboratory

Even there was a need of a law which deals with acid attacks with stringent punishment for convicts and fair compensation to the victim. The pleading before the Court was need to frame a new law which deals with acid attacks or amend Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act, and Criminal Procedure Code to include the Acid Attack as an offence.

Accordingly the Indian Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code were amended by CRIMINAL AMENDMENT ACT of 2013 to make Acid attack as a an offence with stringent punishment for convict and fair compensation for victim. As a result section 326A and 326 B of Indian Penal Code were inserted which deals with acid attack and imposes punishment of imprisonment for 10 years which may extend for life and fine which must be reasonable to meet the medical expenses of the victim.

And even Section 326 B of IPC also inserted to deal with attempt to throw the acid and punishes the convict with imprisonment up to 5yeras which may extend up to 7 years. And by amendment to Indian Evidence Act Section 114 B was inserted.[10]

Rehabilitate and compensate the acid attack victims was the last prayer before the Supreme Court .For that the Supreme Court directed the State Governments and Union territories to frame the compensation schemes for the victims of acid attack under Section 357 A of Criminal Procedure Code. But the schemes of framed by the States and Union territories were un-uniform. Some of the States/Union territories compensated the victims with minimum compensation and some sates fairly compensated the victims.

Victims of Acid attack have to undergo series of surgeries and it’s a great difficulty for them to come back to their early life so by keeping these things in mind the supreme court fixed the standard and directed to the all State Governments and Union territories that the acid victim shall be paid compensation of at least 3 lakh rupees .Now the victims of Acid attack can get remedy under section 357 A and 357 B of CrPc.

A meeting was conveyed by the Secretary in the ministry of Home Affairs, Government Of India and the Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India with all the Chief Secretaries and / Their counter parts in the State/Union territories on 14-3-2015. In this meeting the Supreme Court of India directed to all the States and Union territories to give it the wide and adequate publicity in that particular state/ Union territory so that the victim can take the benefit of victim compensation scheme.

And it also directed the following things:
· The states and Union territories have to take guidelines of the Supreme Court in a serious manner in compensating the acid attack victim and they have to implement the directions given by the Supreme court through the issue of requisite/notification.
· The private Hospitals will also be brought on board for compliance and the States/Union territories will use necessary means in this regard.
· No hospital/clinic should refuse treatment citing lack of specialized facilities.
· First Aid must be administered to the victim and after stabilization; the victim could be shifted to specialized facility for further treatment, wherever required.
· Action may be taken against hospital/clinic for refusal to treat victims of acid attacks and other crimes in contravention of the provisions of Section 357 C of the Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973.[11]

And it also directed to the hospitals where the victims of acid attack are treated to provide certificate to the victim, and this may be utilized by the victim for treatment and reconstructive surgeries or any other scheme that the victim may be entitled to with the State Government or Union territory , as the case may be.

Conclusion
 I lost my childhood that day. I stopped going to school and lost all my friends. People stared at me and mocked me. Neighbors and relatives blamed me, and said I must have done something wrong to earn the man’s wrath. My only fault was I refused the man’s proposal [12]

Words by acid victim Laxmi. Acid attack is one of the growing crimes to harass the women in the society. It has become a powerful tool in the hands of men dominated society to threat the peaceful existence of women. As there was no specific laws and due to the delay in the court proceedings the victims were made to suffer a lot .But now the Criminal Amendment Act of 2013 has became a ray of light in the life of acid victims. They can get the compensation and they can be rehabilitated. The Honorable Supreme Court by directing the State Government and Union territories in this regard upheld the Human Rights of acid attack victims. Now the victims of acid attack can get fair compensation under Indian Penal Code and even under Criminal Procedure Code.

But as per the regulations framed by the Supreme Court is concerned, it has not become much effective in the society. Most of the common people don’t have any knowledge regarding this and even some Polices also. So mere institutionalization of guidelines does not bring the declination in acid attack, it has to be still internalized by the society.

Bibliography
Books Referred
1. Gaur K.D., Commentary On Indian Penal Code Universal Law Publishing co., New Delhi,2nd ed.,2013
2. Ratan lal and Dhiraj lal., The Indian Penal Code ,Lexis Nexis butterworth Wadhawa, Nagpur ,32nd ed.,rept2014
Articles referred
1. Aishwarya Deb And Prithwish Roy Chowdary.  A Fate Worse Than Death: A critical exploration of acid attack in India , Law Mantra Think beyond others., vol 2., Issue 5, 2015

Websites:

· http://www.indiankanoon.com ( visited on 15.9.2015).
· http://www.manupatra.com ( visited on 30.10.2015).
· http://www.smh.com.au./world/acid-attack-victim-i-lost-my-childhood-that-day-20130813-2ru2h.html . (visited on 13.10.2015)
· www.homegrown.co.in>11-landmark-judjements-by-indian-supreme-courts-in-recent-times. (visited on 13.10.2015)
· http:// www.Open democracy .net>we-are-notvictims-but-fighters-acid-attack-survivor-laxmi-speacks.&=1445942594. (visited on 15.10.2015)
· https://en.m. Wikipedia.org>wiki>laxmi_(acid_attack_victim) . (visited on 17.10.2015)
· https://www.trust.org>spotlight>The-worlds-most-dangerous-countries-for-women-2011/&ei=z59N1rug. (visited on 21.10.2015)

.End-Notes
[1] https://www.trust.org>spotlight>The-worlds-most-dangerous-countries-for-women-2011/&ei=z59N1rug.
[2] Ratan lal and Dhiraj lal., The Indian Penal Code ,Lexis Nexis butterworth Wadhawa, Nagpur ,32nd ed.,rept2014.
[3] (2014)4 SCC 427 .
[4]https://en.m. Wikipedia.org>wiki>laxmi_(acid_attack_victim) .
[5] Aishwarya Deb And Prithwish Roy Chowdary.  A Fate Worse Than Death: A critical exploration of acid attack in India , Law Mantra Think beyond others., vol 2., Issue 5, 2015
[6]http:// www.Open democracy .net>we-are-notvictims-but-fighters-acid-attack-survivor-laxmi-speacks.&=1445942594.
[7] Ibid.,
[8] K.D.Gaur., Commentary On Indian Penal Code Universal Law Publishing co., New Delhi,2nd ed.,2013.
[9] www.homegrown.co.in>11-landmark-judjements-by-indian-supreme-courts-in-recent-times.
[10] Section 114B : Presumption as to acid attack- If a person has thrown acid on , or administered acid to, another person the court shall presume that such an act has been done with the intention of causing, or with the knowledge that such an act is likely to cause such hurt or injury as is mentioned in Section 326 A of Indian Penal Code.
[11] 2015(ll) OLR(SC)303.
[12] Rama Lakshmi, Acid Attack Victim :   I Lost my childhood that day ,The Sydney Morning Herald(13/8/2013)
Available at http://www.smh.com.au./world/acid-attack-victim-i-lost-my-childhood-that-day-20130813-2ru2h.html

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