India’s law on acid attacks

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Chapter 6 Conclusions and Recommendations It can be concluded from the research of the laws prevalent in various countries that India has recognized the effects and the increasing incidence of acid violence in the country over the last few years. India has now made acid violence a specific offence and have through legislation ensured that victims be provided free treatment in both government and private hospitals. Also through the Supreme Court judgment it is mandated that the victim be given a minimum of 3 lakhs Rs.

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as compensation by the State government. But still the implementation lacks as there are no agencies / bodies created at the state or district level to ensure that the mandatory provisions are implemented. There is an absence of National/State Monitoring Board or any National / State Victim Fund to adhere to the needs of the victims and also to ensure implementation at the ground level. The National Commission for Women in 2008 recommended establishment of National/State Monitoring Board and a National / State Victim Fund for the purpose but till now no such body is in existence. Even regards compensation and regulating sale and use of corrosive acids, the states have not come out with their policies despite repeated directions by the Supreme Court over the last few years. Also there is no grievance redressal system in place like the Special Acid Violence Tribunals created in Bangladesh. Recommendations- Recommendations with regards to Medical Support- Victims of acid violence need urgent medical support as time is of the essence. The first aid and the medical treatment, including cosmetic surgeries etc. are very expensive. Even in cases of less severe burns the amount spent in surgeries runs into lakhs of Rupees. Inspite of the Supreme Court’s guidelines and provisions in the I.P.C and Cr.P.C, the victims of acid violence face many obstacles in receiving free treatment and also seeking compensation from the Government. From the ground realities it is observed that therein lays the problem of implementation. In many cases of acid violence reported the victims still await the much needed compensation[1] and are denied the essential treatment on technical grounds. Also any delay in the surgery and skin-grafting procedures causes new skin to grow over the burnt skin causing further disfigurement. So to ensure effective implementation it is proposed:-

  • That the Government issue Acid Victim cards to the victims of acid attack which are recognized and accepted in various Government and private hospitals in the Delhi- NCR area ensuring sppedy medical and first-aid treatment to the victims.
  • That such hospitals be mandated to provide medicines and other services free of costs to the victims possessing these Govt. Issued Acid Victim Cards since many of the victims are poor and cant afford even the medicines let alone the surgeries.
  • Also every such hospital should be mandated to reserve atleast 2 wards for victims of acid violence, since absence of beds is given as one of the reasons denying access of treatment to the victims. Also Victims of Acid Burns are prone to infection and so hygienic environment is one of the most essential aspects of treatment.
  • The orders of the Supreme Court with regards to compensation should be implemented and a fund should be incorporated for victims of acid violence so that timely compensation can be paid to ensure urgent first aid and basic skin treatment.
  • There should be in place a National Acid Attack Victim’s Assistance Board on the lines recommended by the National Commission for Women Draft Bill or a Criminal Injuries Compensation Board as recommended by the Law Commission in its 226th Report so as to have in place a monitoring authority to ensure the victim’s grievances are heard and timely compensation accorded to them.[2]

Recommendations regarding Rehabilitation and After care of victims of acid violence-Victims of acid violence are unable to follow their normal routines for many years due to constant surgeries and treatment and in many cases are discarded by their families due to mounting costs of treatment. So it is proposed that:-

  • The victims of acid violence are given employment in Govt. and Public Sector Undertakings since many people are unwilling to hire them because of their appearance and since due to their surgeries and medical treatments they have been out of skilled work for many years.
  • In cases where the victim is not in a position to work due to medical and psychological reasons, the government should give monthly pension or some other fixed amount. The Acid Victim Card issued by the govt. for hospitals could be used to disburse this monthly amount.
  • Furthermore since the victims are often shunned away from their homes due to medical expenses, it is proposed to provide the victims with a safe and hygienic accommodation as has been done by the State of Karnataka for victims of acid violence.

Recommendations with regards to Framing Policy for previous Victims(Drafting a Scheme)- Past Victims of acid violence had to endure many obstacles and sufferings due to absence of laws and had to sell their personal belongings to finance their medical treatment. It is only in the 2013 Criminal Amendment Act that acid attacks was recognized as a distinct offence and Section 326A and 326B were introduced in the Indian Penal Code. In this Amendment Act Section 357B and 357C was introduced in Criminal Procedure Code mandating the States to incorporate a fund for victims of acid attacks and to ensure that both Government and Private Hospitals provide free essential medical treatment. In view of this it is proposed that a Scheme should be formulated treating Acid Attack Victims as a disadvantaged class and ensuring that:-

  • In this Scheme even past victims for acid Violence should be compensated for their financial expenditure on their treatments which was a responsibility for the Govt. to provide in the first place. Atleast compensation amounting to 10 Lakhs of Rupees should be paid to them and a Govt job should be provided to them since they are treated as an outcast with no means of livelihood.
  • Also it is proposed that a shelter house should be established for the Delhi-NCR area to cater to the needs of acid attack victims.
  • Also since the victims of acid attacks are mostly girls in the age group of 15-25 yrs it is proposed that the government should frame policies to provide higher education. Due to the attacks many of the girls had to give up education and so remain unskilled. Education is one of the most elementary aspects of ensuring rehabilitation to the victims and ensuring financial independence. So incentives like scholarships, vocational training and reservation of seats should be provided to them through the scheme. Institutes like ILI can reserve a few seats for victims of acid violence and can also provide free legal aid to such victims.

Recommendations with regard to Criminal Investigation and Trial

  • Cases of acid violence should be brought under fast track courts since in such cases time is of the essence and due to the urgency of the matter questions regarding fine and compensation are to be decided at the earliest.
  • Also a time period should be fixed within which the investigation is to be completed like it is 60 days in Bangladesh.
  • Police officers found negligent or intentionally misleading investigations should be made criminally liable as done by other countries to ensure the perpetrators of such acts are brought to justice.

Recommendations regarding establishment of Skin Banks, a Monitoring Authority, Sensitization and awareness-

  • The Government should promote awareness with regards to acid violence and their detrimental effects. Also basic First Aid to be given to the victims should be highlighted.
  • The govt. should enhance its efforts to sensitize the public generally towards victims of acid attacks so that they are not ridiculed and are brought to the manifold of life. The victims have done no wrong. It is the accused and the perpetrators who should lose face and not the victim. She deserves all the support we can give her.
  • Inspite of the directions of the Supreme Court the Sale of Acid continues Unregulated. The Government should empower the SDM to carry out regular checks over the acid-selling Counters and also to ensure that the Companies manufacturing and distributing acids comply with the Supreme Court Guidelines. The SDM has to be given greater powers in this regard and the punishment for failure to comply with the guidelines with regards to Regulation of acid should invite heavt penalties so as to be a deterrent.
  • Skin banks for acid attack survivors[3] At present, there are no skin banks at government-run hospitals, making skin donation out of reach for the poor.In February 2012, when the Union health ministry approved the idea of setting up a skin bank at New Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital, acid attack survivors and burns patients across north India saw a ray of hope. However, the project is yet to see the light of day, according to replies to an RTI application filed by acid attack survivor and activist Pragya Prasun Singh.[4] Skin banks would not only help acid attack victims, but also those who suffer severe burns. The project was also supposed to involve an awareness programme on skin donation, but there is no such awareness programme in effect as of yet.

Proposed Amendments

  • Amendments to the Indian Evidence Act-It is proposed that section 114B of the Indian Evidence Act should be incorporated. Section 114 B would read as:

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 the Indian Penal Code.

  • Amendments to the Indian Penal Code- it is proposed that the recommendations of both National Commission for Women and the Law Commission should be complied with and a minimum amount of fine should be laid down both in Section 326A and Section 326 B.

The National Commission for Women in its Draft Bill laid down the quantum of fine as 5 lakhs to be paid by the accused to the victim while the 226th Report laid down the amount of fine upto 10 lakhs. Even in cases of attempt to throw acid, the amount of fine should atleast be Rs. 2 lakhs so as to deter future cases of acid violence.

  • Amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure
  1. Section 161 should be amended so as to include 326A and 326B as the class of cases wherein the statement of the women who is victim of acid violence will be recorded by the women police officer or any woman officer.
  2. Section 167(5) of the Code should be amended so as to include a proviso stating that in cases of acid violence the investigation shall be concluded within a period of 30days from the arrest of the accused and in case of delay for no fault of the investigating officer, it shall be completed within a period of 2 months from the date of arrest of the accused.
  3. It is proposed Section 309 of the CrPC be amended so as to include Section 326A and Section 326B in the first proviso. Section 309 relates to the power to postpone or adjourn proceedings. It would mean that in cases of Section 326A and 326B, the trial or inquiry should be completed within a period of 2 months from the date of filing of the charge sheet.
  4. Furthermore Sec309 should be amended to introduce an additional proviso stating that in case of adjournment or in case of discharge of accused u/s 245 Crpc, the court may order interim compensation for the urgent treatment of victim of acid violence.
  5. Section 357A (5) should be amended so as to include a proviso so that in cases of acid violence interim compensation for urgent medical treatment should be disbursed to the concerned hospital treating the victim within 15 days.
  6. Section 357C should be amended so as to clarify that the hospitals (public/private) providing free treatment to victims of acid violence will get the amount reimbursed from the state’s Victim Compensation Fund after presenting the requisite details of the treatment provided signed by the victim. For this purpose the Government is to provide Acid Attack Victim Medical cards so as to make the whole process more transparent and easier for the victims of acid violence.
  7. Provisions as to Bail-Section 437 of the Code of Criminal Procedure should be amended so as to include a proviso that in cases of acid violence no bail should be given to the accused if it appears that on being released the accused would threaten the victim or would use his position to threaten/influence the victim or her family members. Also it should be made out that normally in cases of acid violence bail is not to be given unless accused shows that he has a strong defence or that preponderance of probabilities lies in favour of the accused.

[1] See also Sapna Case Study in Chapter 5.1. [2] See Chapter 2.4.3 Draft Bills and Reports of this work. [3] Nupur Sonar, No skin to hide the Scars, 21st Dec’2013 available at: https://www.tehelka.com/no-skin-to-hide-the-scars/(Visited on 20th Feb 2014). [4] Ibid.

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