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Flaws In The Existing Schemes Of Compensation For Acid Attack Victims

Female victims are solemnly and attentively studied under various Acts and assistance is given as compensation under various schemes for the damages caused to them due to crimes committed against them. So, it will be important to study how the compensation for Acid Attack Victims is distributed, the minimum and maximum amounts and its flaws included thereby. What is Acid Attack, who are its victims, historical aspect and present situation. Relevant case laws are mentioned as examples for a better understanding of the concept.

This article examines the NALSA, SLSA & DLSA and Victim Compensation Fund with relevant case laws and provisions. We all know about the Female victims as they come into limelight but what about the Male victims? In many cases where the male are the victims of the acid attack, they are not given assistance.

Introduction:
Crimes in India are developing at alarming speed the crimes against women are Rape, Domestic Violence, Molestation, and Sexual Harassment, etc. Out of these activities, Acid Attack is one of the atrocities against women which is growing rapidly. The victims in each case mentioned are suffering from a serious injury let it be physical or mental and due to this their psychological health is disturbed resulting to commit suicide. Acid attack is a case that can be differentiated from other atrocities against women by their physical appearance.

What Is Acid Attack?

Acid Attack is a heinous act with an intention to causing harm or grievous hurt or pain by throwing acid or acid diluted liquid directly onto any person especially a woman to disfigure or maim or incapacitate their body or face, in particular causing them a temporary or permanent injury which results in tear of facial tissues like epithelial and ectodermal tissue. It can also be explained as an attack on the very identity of a person and the existence of the individual (victim). The person who throws the Acid is called the Perpetrator and the person on whom the Acid is thrown is called the Victim.

The Perpetrator plans accordingly with motive and guilty mind and does the act as planned (with ill will and executes a planned attack). In a few cases, the perpetrator hides his face using a cloth and makes sure that the act is done in such a way that it shows the criminality in the offense. In most cases, the Victim is injured (grievously hurt); damage is done to the face and body by acid which burns and corrodes the skin and at most times leading to partial or complete blindness. The Perpetrators are generally motivated to do such an act because of many reasons a few of them can be:
  1. Racial Motivation
  2. Religious motivation
  3. Love Affairs (South-Asia but Mostly in India)
  4. Extramarital Affairs
  5. Revenge or Refusal for Sexual pleasure or intercourse
In most cases, the Perpetrator uses either sulfuric, nitric or hydrochloric acid (Domestic use). Bleach or Caustic Soda is also used in the rare of the rarest cases, and it results in temporary burning., loss of sight and disfigurement of face and body, etc.

Who Are Acid Attack Victims?

Acid Attack victims are those individuals on whom Acid is thrown either on the face or the body. In India and across the globe most of the victims of such an act are women. Why only women are targeted in such attacks can be answered by simple logic and reason which is that men are obsessed about women and their psychology, character, their up bring, patriarchal thinking, ego, megalomania results in mental distress, uncontrollable Rage to take such heinous acts.

The obscenity shown by the men towards women is one of the best and acceptable reasons for such an act, this and the reasons mentioned in the above are sufficient or enough for such an attack against women.

Interestingly Men have also been the victims in these attacks and the perpetrators are mostly women as they (men) refuse to marry after being in a healthy relationship or having any sort of affairs (physical) with other women at the time or after the marriage. For instance, a case in which a 19years old woman poured acid on her boyfriend’s face to Ensure he does not get out of their three-year Relationship[1].

Sadly, the victim assistance to men is not given until and unless the victims plead to the concerned Authorities. Though the cases of male victims of Acid Attack are less to provide justice to male victims the appropriate changes should be made. The victim assistance is not given until and unless the victims plead to the concerned Authorities. Though the cases of male victims of Acid Attack are less to provide justice to male victims the appropriate changes should be made (The data available regarding male victims and the assistance provided to them is still a debatable issue)

If we focus on the point that who are the victims of Acid Attack the most probable answer for this is that most of these (victim) are from economically weaker sections or below the poverty line Lack of knowledge and education to these people is the focal point of such an attack.

Issues with a past or present girlfriend or boyfriend can be one of the points that can be noted as mentioned above. Sadly, the victim assistance to men is not given until and unless the victims plead to the concerned Authorities. Though the cases of male victims of Acid Attack are less to provide justice to male victims the appropriate changes should be made.

History of Acid Attack In India:

According to the National Crime Report Bureau, acid attack was started in the year 1975 but the crime got developed and became a prevalent issue in the year 2002 and growing continuously and drastically. During ancient times acid was used for printing.

Slowly the uses of acid turned not only in printing but also in a weapon for revenge. The use of acid as a weapon started to rise in developing countries mostly in South-Asia, Bangladesh was the 1st nation for such an act in the year 1963 and then comes India in which the 1st acid attack was reported in the year 1975 and Cambodia in the year 1993.

In Ravinder Singh vs State of Haryana, 1975[2] Acid was poured on a woman by her husband for refusing to grant him divorce as the perpetrator was involved in extra-marital affairs.

In Gulab Sahibal Shaikh vs State of Maharashtra, 1998[3] Acid was thrown on a woman when she was holding a two- and half-year-old baby. Here the perpetrator was brother in law of the victim.

In Marepally Venkata Sree Nagesh vs State of AP, 2002[4] the victim was inserted Mercuric Chloride into her vagina and later on she expired due to renal failure. The perpetrator was suspicious about the character of his wife and attempted this attack.

Schemes Under Acid Attack In India:

The Flaws in the Scheme which are discussed in the following Article:
  1. 1st Flaw; Determination of Amount to the Victims.
  2. 2nd Flaw; Gender Injustice or Discrimination under the Scheme.
  3. 3rd Flaw; Delay for the Dispensation of Justice.
There are many schemes for which compensation or damages are given in the form of money to the victim of Acid Attack. Depending on the damage happened or done to the victim the amount is given, now here comes the 1st flaw of this scheme; it is mentioned in the scheme about how much amount is to be given, however in rare cases is the victim able to afford the bare medical expenses from the amount as specified under the various schemes. Whatever is given in the medical report, determines the final quantum i.e. the amount of compensation and shall be based on the degree of damage.

There are different schemes in India on Acid Attack such as:

  1. National Legal Services Authority
  2. NALSA (National Legal Services Authority) Scheme, 2016
  3. State Legal Services Authority & District Legal Services Authority
  4. Victim Compensation Fund
  5. Nirbhaya Fund

NALSA is constituted under the Legal Services Authority Act, 1987. The reason for the establishment of NALSA is to give free legal aid services to the economically weaker sections. It also acts as a legal bench for the settlement of disputes between the parties.

As Centre cannot provide much concentration on the State and District levels hence SLSA and DLSA are established to render free legal aid services to the population living there. All these units work independently but are dependent on each other. The powers are distributed accordingly and the Centre holds the maximum power among the three organizations.

Central Victim Compensation Fund[5] is a scheme which is described under section 357 A of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 under this section the victim is given a sum of amount for the injury faced by them. The Court on the recommendations of the SLSA or DLSA decides the amount and on the report given by them, the compensation is received.

The minimum and maximum amount of compensation for the victims of Acid Attack are as follows:

  1. In the case of disfigurement of face 7 lakh to 8 lakh
  2. In case of injury more than 50% 5 lakh to 8 lakh
  3. In case of injury less than 50% 3 lakh to 8 lakh
  4. In case of injury less than 20% 3 lakh to 4 lakh
{If the victim is below the age of 14 years of age then the compensation will be increased by 50%}

Now here comes the 2nd flaw of this scheme; all the mentioned above funds and Schemes are given only to the female victims, and male victims of this very crime are left in lurch and completely ignored and not taken in consideration, this can be seen under provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 where they are not listed as victims. According to the report given by the NCRB 30%-40% of the Acid Attack, victims are men.

Even the SC had asked the Center and States to file a reply in this regard, but things have not changed. And men are not allowed to get compensation for Acid Attack. In the year 2011, Chandrahas Mishra[6] a tenant who was attacked by his Landlord’s son with a bucket full of acid in it, whom he allegedly prevented from molesting a woman a day before.

The victim suffered a 40% injury and it took nearly 30 lakhs to the victim for the surgeries. He took loans and borrowed money from banks and friends for the surgery. The court had ordered a sum of 3 lakh to all survivors but the present schemes and policies gave him an amount of Rs.1 lakh as the provisions are given by SLSA & DLSA are only for women. He struggled for 5years to get that amount. This is a clear sign of discrimination towards the male victims of Acid Attack.

Now the same person (victim) is working in an NGO for Survivors and Women Welfare Foundation. The interesting point here is that the 1 lakh which the victim got was after so many struggles and letters which he wrote to the District Magistrate and after meeting several bureaucrats and going through lot of red tape-ism.

The above-mentioned case can be compared to the sensational and landmark judgment of Lakshmi Agarwal vs Union of India, 2012[7] based on this incident/case Bollywood made a movie named Chhapaak. In this case, the victim was a TV host aged 15years who was tortured to accept the marriage proposal of Naeem Khan a 32years old man, who is the perpetrator in this attack.

The accused followed her which also amounted to Stalking under section 354D of Indian Penal Code. In this case, she (victim) got the remedy, but the medical expenses she and her family bore were much more than the compensation which she got. After this case, the court banned on sale of acid in shops, but the harsh reality is that it is still being sold. Countries like Cambodia and Bangladesh have banned the sale of Acid in shops, if any person wants to buy or sell acid then the person should have a valid license issued by their respective Government.

The best thing here is that when we compare both the cases in each case the victims got remedy but, in the 1st, (male) case the amount was delayed and in the latter or 2nd (female) case it Was Not Delayed. Another fact is that the compensation amount given to them was comparably less than the medical expenses. This is the 3rd flaw in this scheme.

Not just in these cases but few other cases are also are examples of not only women but men are also victims of acid attack. Yes, it is right that the magnitude of crime against the men is less but that doesn't mean that it is just a normal crime, they also go through the same pain, torture let it be mental or physical and other related aspects to it. This gender discrimination and bias system should not be neglected on the part of the victim i.e. concerning the compensation amount, let it be male or female everyone should be equally treated under the law.

Present Situation In India On Acid Attack:

The present situation in India on Acid Attack is swiftly seen as the number of attacks and the number of victims is being increased in a day to day situation. If u look into the data of Acid Attack from 2014 to 2019 it has been increasing ever since and the most recent one was a 20 years old girl was threatened by a man aged 25years old man in Ahmedabad this news was reported by the Police station in Ranip area in Ahmedabad where the complaint was registered. The man was charged for Stalking, Criminal Intimidation, and Harassment. The good news here is that the man was scared for the offenses framed against him and apologized for his acts and the dispute was settled.

The NCRB revealed the stats of Acid Attack from the years 2014 to 2018 which are as follows:

  1. 2014 244 Incidents
  2. 2015 267 Incidents
  3. 2016 290 Incidents
  4. 2017 309 Incidents
  5. 2018 287 incidents[8]

The worst situation here is that few victims every year die and those who have survived are facing humiliation in some or the other way. Interestingly yet sadly the cases filed against the accused are comparably less than the incidents which have occurred, this harsh reality will and truly stop or make the victims from not filing a complaint against the men who threaten or who attempt to pour acid on them.

As the women are scared or for any reason are not coming out and filing the complaint(s) against the men who are threatening them. Out of 1500 Acid Attacks in the past 5 years, only 149 cases on an average in every year are filed /registered in the courts. Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, and Madhya Pradesh are reported the highest number of Acid Attacks in India in these 5 years, whereas Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, and Bihar reported the least number of Acid Attacks.

The point here which has to be considered is that only few victims have survived an acid attack. The percentage of survival of Acid Attack in the year 2016 is 6.6%, in the year 2017 it got increased to 9.9% and at last in the year 2018, it was 6.11%.

This fluctuation is showing the working of the Justice System in India. The police are not showing interest to investigate the offense or crime, according to NCRB most of the Acid Attacks are settled in the PS. This resulted in a lower conviction rate for the offenders and making them have a possible way to escape the punishment/penalty. This itself is a drawback in the present Law.

Provisions Relating To Acid Attack In India:

Section 326(A) and Section 326(B) of the Indian Penal Code talks about the definitions and laws governing like penalty and punishment of Acid Attack.

Section 326(A) of Indian Penal Code, 1860:

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 an intention to cause 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 fine:

Provided that such fine shall be just and reasonable to meet the medical expenses of the treatment of the victim:

Provided further that any fine imposed under this section shall be paid to the victim.

Explanation 1: For the purposes of ... this section,  acid  includes any substance which has an acidic or corrosive character or burning nature, that is capable of causing bodily injury leading to scars or disfigurement or temporary or permanent disability.

Explanation 2. For the purposes of ... this section, permanent or partial damage or deformity shall not be required to be irreversible.
The minimum punishment is 10 years imprisonment. It can extend up to life imprisonment with fine.

Section 326(B) of Indian Penal Code, 1860:

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 of 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 extent to seven years and also be liable to fine.

Explanation 1.- For the purposes of section 326(A) and this section,  acid  includes any substance which has an acidic or corrosive character or burning nature, that is capable of causing bodily injury leading to scars or disfigurement or temporary or permanent disability.

Explanation 2.- For the purposes of section 326(A) and this section, permanent or partial damage or deformity shall not be required to be irreversible.
The minimum punishment is 5 years imprisonment. It can extend up to 7 years imprisonment with fine.

Conclusion:
The societal aspect of the nation is that only women are the victims of the acid attack and not men, but according to the data mentioned by NCRB it is true that men are also victims of Acid Attack. And there is a huge gender discrimination when it comes to compensation schemes in India, even after the SC guidelines in the year 2013 men are not given compensation. The existing schemes should bring out the policies for the betterment of the society by amending the existing schemes and allowing the male victims also to get equivalent compensation equally good as females counterparts.

Let there be a Legislation or an Amendment which can specifically address the applicability of Sec 326(A) and Sec 326(B) Indian Penal Code, 1860 to the male victims Let there be a panel of Doctors attached to all District Court in the Country to ascertain the intensity of the damage caused to the Acid Attack victim. Further, I conclude this issue that, in my opinion, there shall be equality of justice irrespective of gender and all the victims under Acid Attack shall be compensated equally, subject to the Degree of damage. The police department should also look into the cases (on Acid Attack) which are registered in the Police Station, it can be considered as due to the lack of police involvement in the Investigation process these activities are increasing.

The victim assistance is not given until and unless the victims plead to the concerned Authorities. Though the cases of male victims of Acid Attack are less to provide justice to male victims the appropriate changes should be made. This is a very dangerous(heinous) crime and can be prevented by proper guidelines and education if the same act continuous then there might be a chance of losing humanity and the belief in the justice delivery (judicial) system in India.

Reference:
  1. Anon, 2019. 19-year-old woman in Delhi threw acid on boyfriend, herself to prevent breakup. Hindustan Times. Available at: https://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi-news/woman-threw-acid-on-boyfriend-self-to-prevent-breakup/story-Jkv4V8W2cSnizn7ZMwRy5J.html [Accessed February 26, 2020].
  2. Anon, Available at: http://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/report226.pdf [Accessed February 26, 2020].
  3. Anon, Available at: http://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/report226.pdf [Accessed February 26, 2020]
  4. Anon, Available at: http://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/report226.pdf [Accessed February 26, 2020]
  5. Ratnani, D., Kumar, R. & Reddy, S., 2019. Legal Aid. Vikaspedia. Available at: https://www.shethepeople.tv/top-stories/issues/india-acid-attacks-survivors-data [Accessed February 26, 2020].
  6. Nair, H.V., 2018. Supreme Court to look into male acid attack victims' woes. India Today. Available at: https://www.indiatoday.in/mail-today/story/supreme-court-to-look-into-male-acid-attack-victims-woes-1166957-2018-02-11 [Accessed February 26, 2020].
  7. Roy, P., 2020. India saw almost 1,500 acid attacks in five years. India Today. Available at: India saw almost 1,500 acid attacks in five years [Accessed February 26, 2020].
  8. Gupta, P., 2020. India Is Failing Acid Attack Survivors, Here Is the Data. shethepeople. Available at: https://www.shethepeople.tv/top-stories/issues/india-acid-attacks-survivors-data [Accessed February 26, 2020].
Written By: B Bhanukesh - (LLM 2nd Semester, Sardar Patel University of Police Security and Criminal Justice)
Ph No: +91 9642402642
Email Id: [email protected]  

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