Acid attack or acid throwing is a form of violent assault on the body of another by the use of hydrochloric, sulfuric and nitric acids, with the intention to disfigure, maim, torture or kill, the victim.
In the landmark case of Laxmi v. Union of India, 2014, an acid attack survivor, Ms. Laxmi Agarwal (Petitioner) had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court seeking ban on the sale and use of acid. The Apex Court passed an Order dated 18-07-2013 whereby the following guidelines were issued on restriction and regulation of sale of acid:
1- Over the counter sale is prohibited unless the seller maintains a register recording the details of the acid purchased, purchaser, reasons for such purchase, etc
2- Sellers shall sell the acid only after the purchaser has shown a photo ID proof and an address proof
3- Sellers shall declare the stocks of acid with the Sub-Divisional Magistrate within 15 days, otherwise, such stock would be confiscated and fine may be imposed on the seller
4- Sellers shall not sell the acid to any person below 18 years of age
5- Educational, research institutions, laboratories, hospitals, government departments etc would also have to keep a register of usage of acid, appoint a person who would be in-charge of safe-keeping of acid within such premises, etc
6- Government to provide funds under a separate scheme as compensation to acid attack victims or their dependents, which would be a minimum of Rs. 3 Lakhs, etc.
7- State Governments and Union Territories have to frame rules to regulate sale of acid and corrosive substance.
8- Government to work towards making acid attack offence cognizable and non-bailable.
Thereafter, amendments were made to the Criminal Laws, vide Criminal Amendment Act of 2013, which made following separate provisions for acid violence. Earlier, acid attack offence was considered under a general category of ‘grievous hurt’:
i) For voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid, etc.— Minimum 10 years imprisonment, extendable to life imprisonment, and an amount of fine that would be just and reasonable to meet the medical expenses of the treatment of the victim
ii) For voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid, etc. –5 to 7 years imprisonment, extendable to life imprisonment, and fine.
iii) Compensation by State Government
The Courts have even gone to the extent of imposing death penalty on offenders who have committed the brutal act of acid attack, resulting in death. For instance, in 2016, the Bombay High Court imposed death penalty to an offender who committed the gruesome act of acid attack on the victim, namely, Ms. Preeti Rathi, which resulted in unbearable pain, loss of vision, face disfiguration, multiple organ damage, and death.
Thus, although there have been amendments in law, introduction of guidelines for regulation of sale and usage of acid, etc, but incidents of acid attacks have been on high. But it is hoped that the Government takes impromptu steps to curb such incidents and the Courts dispose of the matters in a fast track manner.
4TH Year Student, Galgotias University, Greater Noida
Intern, The Indian Lawyer
Senior Legal Associate
The Indian Lawyer