What are the specific guidelines formulated by the Supreme Court in deciding the quantum of compensation for acid attack victims?

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to research about the specific guidelines given by the Supreme Court of India in deciding the quantum of compensation for acid attack victims with the help of the case laws by the different High Courts and Supreme Court over the years on the topic.

Introduction

Acid attacks are brutal instances where strong acids are thrown intentionally on the face or body of a person basically in a form of revenge. The incident of acid attacks has been increasing in India every year. The most of the victims of the acid attacks are especially women. These attacks can be due to various factors such as disfigure, maim, torture or kill. Acid attack is a cruel, violent, immoral form of crime. The 78% cases of acid attacks are due to rejection or refusal of love proposals and marriages.  The effects of acid attacks are that it makes the person blind along with permanent scars on the body which is lifelong bodily disfigurement. The victim faces lifelong discrimination from society due to the disfigurement. It also affects them socially, economically and psychologically. In some cases, their own families abandon them due to their deformities which leads to emotional breakdown of victims.

The two main acids which are used for acid attacks are Sulphuric acid and Hydrochloric acid. Even though Acid is easily accessible at any shop and there are no restrictions for buying it despite, of the Supreme Court has passed guidelines for regulation of acid which is people have to show a valid identity card to buy acid and buyers will also explain the need of the acid and sellers have to report the police. But the problem is the implementation of the guidelines. [1]

Indian Laws on Acid Attack

Till 2013, there was no specific law for acid attack in India. So, the cases were booked under section 326 of Indian Penal Code 1960, which deals with causing grievous hurt by throwing of a corrosive substance. The scope of the definition of Section 326 is very narrow but it doesn’t adequately deal with the issues of acid attack because it doesn’t cover various kinds of injuries inflicted due to acid attack and the act of administering acid attack. The section doesn’t specify to whom the fine should be awarded and punishment for intentional act of throwing of acid if no injuries had occurred.

Due to these reasons the Eighteenth Law Commission of India headed by Justice A.R Lakshmanan then proposed a new Section 326A and Section 326B in the IPC and Section 114B in the Indian Evidence Act. The section 114B of Indian Evidence Act was included to give a wide perspective to acid attack. In the Section 326A of IPC, the word Acid was included and the punishment for throwing acid was also included as minimum 10years and can be extended to life imprisonment with a fine in form of compensation paid to the victim for the medical expenses and the Section 326B of IPC, lays down the punishment of attempting acid throwing which is 5years of imprisonment and can be extended to 7years with fine.

So, It was originally an ordinance promulgated by the Ex-President of India, Pranab Mukherjee on 3rd February 2013 in the light of the protesting the 2012 Nirbhaya Gang Rape Case. The Criminal Law(Amendment) Bill 2013 was passed on 19th March 2013 by the Lok Sabha and on 21st March 2013 by Rajya Sabha. The bill inserted section 326A and section 326B in Indian Penal Code providing punishment for acid attack and attempting of acid attacks. The acid attack offence was registered under Section 320, 322, 325, 326, and 307 of the IPC.[2]

Statistical Overview on Acid Attack

The crime is mainly committed in 4 countries which are namely, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Cambodia. But even though being in the top of the list India doesn’t have any stringent law which can deal with the problem. As per the Records of the India Today Data Intelligence (DIU) has found that in between 2014 to 2018 there were 1483 victims of Acid attack in India.

According to the National Crime Record Bureau, data in a term of 5 years from 2014 to 2018. In 2017, It witnessed the highest no. of acid attack cases which is 319 cases followed by 2018 with 304 cases and only 149 people were charged sheeted in each year. The lowest number of cases was in 2014, which is 244 cases and 201 people were charged sheeted.

Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Delhi with 260 cases, 248 cases and 114 cases respectively have been consistently ranking in top 10 worst states in the term of acid attacks from 2014 to 2018. The three states in total had 42 percent of the victims in India. Even having so many victims, India doesn’t have a Injuries Compensation board even after Central Government Notification to States to form a compensation board.[3]

Compensation

The compensation for acid attacks are payable by the government under section 357A of CrPC and in addition to payment of fine to the victim under 326A of IPC as provided under section 357B of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

All hospitals, public or private, whether run by the Central Government, State Government, Local Bodies or any other person shall provide a free of cost and immediate first aid to the victim of a crime under Section 326A, 376, 376A, 376B, 376C, 376D and 376E of the IPC and it shall immediately inform the police about such incident under Section 357C of the CrPC.[4]

Cases Laws related to Compensation

  • Laxmi V. Union of India and others, 2014 SCC 4 427 –

Laxmi was attacked by acid when she was 16years old. She refused a guy to marry him so he attacked her. In 2006, Laxmi filed a PIL in Supreme Court. Issues raised by Laxmi asking for compensation, and for creation of new laws and amendment of the existing laws related to acid attacks. She even asked for the complete ban of sale of acids in the market. The Supreme court ordered and passed a Judgement and asked the Government to file affidavits of all the cases of acid attacks. So, the affidavits were filed in court regarding 282 acid attack cases in all the states when compiled. Then the Supreme Court of India passed orders for the betterment of acid attack survivors. The certain legislation and guidelines were passed which are as follows:

  •  Amendment was made in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 Section 357A was inserted by Act 5 of 2009 requiring every state government in coordination with the central government for the purpose of compensation provided to the victim, who had suffered loss or injury as a result of a crime.
  • Amendment was made in Indian Penal Code by inserting section 326A and 326B which specifically dealt with acid attack.
  • Per acid attack victims were given compensation of Rs 300000 by all the states and the union territories.
  • Legal action can be against any private or government hospital or clinic if they refuse for the treatment of the acid attack victims.
  • The Supreme Court directed all the Union Territories and States Legal Services Authority to give wide publicity to victim compensation scheme. So, that each victim can take the benefits of the scheme.
  • Acid cannot be sold to anyone below 18yrs and without id proofs.

After laxmi has claimed for ban of sale of acid and the regulations of Supreme Court of India still acids are freely available and no regulation is followed by the shops. The complete ban of acids cannot be implemented as it is used for making car batteries and cleaning purposes.[5]

  • Parivartan Kendra V. Union of India 2016 3 SCC 571 –

Parivartan Kendra an NGO filed a writ petition to the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution. After the pronouncements of the Laxmi V. Union of India, they tried to tried to address acid attack victims and the case was filed after acid was thrown on a girl called Chanchal a dalit girl an 18 years old. She was verbally and sexually harassed by 4 persons who on her roof of her house while chanchal was sleeping with her sister. The accused grabbed the opportunity and threw acid on Chanchal’s face and drops on her sister too. They were taken to the hospital and medication amounted to 5lakh rupees. Her father was unable to pay so he got into debts and due to caste doctor and police mistreated them. Chanchal’s father arranged 3lakh rupees for treatment of the girls under the light of Laxmi V. Union of India. But it didn’t cover the losses suffered. Issues raised that the amount of Rs 3lakhs was not sufficient for the victims and there is a requirement of systematized treatment and management guidelines. Additional measures are needed to taken for fundamental rights of the victims. The Supreme Court of India passed judgement are as follows:

  • The minimum compensation given to victims will be 3 lakh rupees.
  • Observed that state governments were unable to control the distribution of acid and failed to adhere the ‘ Victim Compensation Scheme’.
  • Allowed compensation of Rs 10lakh for Chanchal and Rs 5lakh for her sister.
  • Supreme Court took responsibility of dealing acid attack victims in the disability list.[6]
  • Piyali Dutta V. State of West Bengal W.P 26174(W) of 2014 –

The petitioner, Piyali Dutta is an acid attack survivor who wrote the Chief Secretary, State of West Bengal requesting for compensation of Rs 3lakh. She received no response so she filed a writ petition in the High Court at Calcutta.

The West Bengal State Legal Services Authority entered into the case and took stance that an amendment was made to the CrPC in 2009. And The Supreme Court passed a landmark case of Laxmi V. Union of India regarding compensation in 2013. Since the petition filed was in 2005, So, SLSA stated Petitioner is not eligible for compensation. So, as the matter came up to the High Court at Calcutta. The H.C granted the compensation of Rs 3lakh to the victim of acid attack in February 2018 as according to the West Bengal Victim Compensation Scheme 2017, the state and district legal services authority is empowered to decide compensation application under Section 357A of CrPC.[7]

Conclusion and Suggestions

The Brutality in acid attack is more than that in a rape case. Rape destroys the very soul of the person and she can stay without disclosing her identity but in acid attack victims have to move around with the scars for lifelong. It makes the life of victim hell.

So, I would suggest to insert Section 114B which recommended by J.S Verma Committee in the Indian Evidence Act 1872. Both State Government and Central Government should make a separate government fund for compensation and pension for the victims who cannot work. The sale of acid regulation should be implemented strictly in the country.


[1] Legalserviceindia.com. 2020. The Most Grievous Assault Acid Attack Is Common In India Why. [online] Available at: <http://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-196-the-most-grievous-assault-acid-attack-is-common-in-india-why.html&gt; [Accessed 20 May 2020].

[2] Legalserviceindia.com. 2020. The Most Grievous Assault Acid Attack Is Common In India Why. [online] Available at: <http://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-196-the-most-grievous-assault-acid-attack-is-common-in-india-why.html&gt; [Accessed 20 May 2020].

[3] Roy, 2020. India Saw Almost 1,500 Acid Attacks In Five Years. [online] India Today. Available at: <https://www.indiatoday.in/diu/story/india-saw-almost-1-500-acid-attacks-in-five-years-1636109-2020-01-12&gt; [Accessed 20 May 2020].

[4] Legalserviceindia.com. 2020. The Most Grievous Assault Acid Attack Is Common In India Why. [online] Available at: <http://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-196-the-most-grievous-assault-acid-attack-is-common-in-india-why.html&gt; [Accessed 20 May 2020].

[5] Indiankanoon.org. 2020. Laxmi Vs Union Of India & Ors On 10 April, 2015. [online] Available at: <https://indiankanoon.org/doc/90443079/&gt; [Accessed 20 May 2020].

[6] Indiankanoon.org. 2020. Parivartan Kendra & Anr Vs U.O.I & Ors On 7 December, 2015. [online] Available at: <https://indiankanoon.org/doc/16029001/&gt; [Accessed 20 May 2020].

[7] Indiankanoon.org. 2020. Piyali Dutta Vs The State Of West Bengal & Ors On 7 July, 2017. [online] Available at: <https://indiankanoon.org/doc/21784779/&gt; [Accessed 20 May 2020].

Written By:

Author Name: Anand Dwivedi
Published on: 31st May 2020

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