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Law on Acid Attacks in India

  • 19 Dec 2022
  • 8 min read

For Prelims: National Crime Records Bureau, Indian Penal Code (IPC), The Poisons Act, 1919.

For Mains: Acid Attacks in India, Law on Acid Attacks, Law on the Regulation of Acid Sales, Compensation and Care for the Acid-attack Victims.

Why in News?

Recently, a girl was attacked with an acid-like substance in Delhi by three assailants. The incident has brought back to focus the heinous crime of acid attacks and the easy availability of corrosive substances.

Acid Attacks in India: What’s the Scenario?

  • According to the data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), there were 150 such cases recorded in 2019, 105 in 2020 and 102 in 2021.
  • West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh consistently record the highest number of such cases generally accounting for nearly 50% of all cases in the country year on year.
  • The charge sheeting rate of acid attacks stood at 83% and the conviction rate at 54% in 2019.
    • In 2020, the figures stood at 86% and 72% respectively. In 2021, the figures were recorded to be 89% and 20% respectively.
  • In 2015, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued an advisory to all states to ensure speedy justice in cases of acid attacks by expediting prosecution.

What is the Law on Acid Attacks in India?

  • Indian Penal Code: Until 2013, acid attacks were not treated as separate crimes. However, following amendments carried out in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), acid attacks were put under a separate section (326A) of the IPC and made punishable with a minimum imprisonment of 10 years which is extendable to life along with a fine.
  • Denial of Treatment: The law also has provisions for punishment for denial of treatment to victims or police officers refusing to register an FIR or record any piece of evidence.
    • Denial of treatment (by both public and private hospitals) can lead to imprisonment of up to one year and dereliction of duty by a police officer is punishable by imprisonment of up to two years.

What is the Law on the Regulation of Acid Sales?

  • The Poisons Act, 1919: In 2013, the Supreme Court took cognizance of acid attacks and passed an order on the regulation of sales of corrosive substances.
    • Based on the order, the MHA issued an advisory to all states on how to regulate acid sales and framed the Model Poisons Possession and Sale Rules, 2013 under The Poisons Act, 1919.
    • As a result, states were asked to frame their own rules based on model rules, as the matter fell under the purview of states.
  • Maintenance of the Data: Over-the-counter sale (without a valid prescription) of acid was not allowed unless the seller maintains a logbook/register recording the sale of acid.
    • This logbook was to also contain the details of the person to whom acid is sold, the quantity sold, the address of the person, and also specify the reason for procuring acid.
  • Age Restriction & Documentation: The sale is also to be made only upon presentation of a photo ID containing his address issued by the government. The buyer must also prove he/she is above 18 years of age.
  • Confiscation of Acid Stocks: Sellers are also required to declare all stocks of acid with the concerned Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) within 15 days and in case of undeclared stock of acid. The SDM can confiscate the stock and suitably impose a fine of up to Rs 50,000 for a breach of any of the directions.
  • A Record-Keeping Requirement: As per the rules, educational institutions, research laboratories, hospitals, government departments and the departments of Public Sector Undertakings, which are required to keep and store acid, to maintain a register of usage of acid and file the same with the concerned SDM.
  • Accountability: As per the rules, a person shall be made accountable for the possession and safe keeping of acid in their premises. The acid shall be stored under the supervision of this person and there shall be compulsory checking of the students/ personnel leaving the laboratories/place of storage where acid is used.

What is the Compensation and Care for the Acid-attack Victims?

  • Compensation: Acid attack victims are paid compensation of at least Rs. 3 lakhs by the concerned State Government/Union Territory as the aftercare and rehabilitation cost.
  • Free of Cost Treatment: States are supposed to ensure that treatment provided to acid attack victims in any hospital, public or private, is free of cost. The cost incurred on treatment is not to be included in the Rs 1 lakh compensation given to the victim.
  • Reservation of Beds: Acid attack victims need to undergo a series of plastic surgeries and hence 1-2 beds at private hospitals could be reserved for the treatment of acid attack victims.
  • Social Integration Programs: States should also extend social integration programs to the victims for which Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) could be funded to exclusively look after their rehabilitative requirements.

What can be the Way Forward?

  • A Promise to Leave No One Behind: Violence against women continues to be an obstacle to achieving equality, development, peace as well as to the fulfillment of women and girls’ human rights.
  • Holistic Approach: Crime against women cannot be resolved in a court of law alone. A holistic approach & changing the entire ecosystem is what is required.
  • Participation: All the stakeholders need to get their act together, including Law makers, police officers, forensic dept, prosecutors, judiciary, medical & health dept, NGOs, rehabilitation centers.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Questions (PYQs)

Q. What are the continued challenges for Women in India against time and space? (2019)

Source: IE

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