Law on Acid Attacks in India

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    In News

    • A recent attack on a 17-year-old girl with an acid-like substance in Delhi has once again brought back to focus the heinous crime of acid attacks and the easy availability of corrosive substances.

    About

    • Prevalence of Acid Attack:
      • As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, there were 150 such cases recorded in 2019, 105 in 2020 and 102 in 2021. 
      • West Bengal and UP consistently record the highest number of such cases generally accounting for nearly 50% of all cases in the country year on year.
    • Conviction Rate: 
      • 2019 –  54%  
      • 2020 – 72%  
      • 2021 – 20% 

    Initiatives

    • Law on Acid Attack:
      • Origin: 
        • Until 2013, acid attacks were not treated as separate crimes. 
        • In 2013, after some amendments, acid attacks were put under a separate section (326A) of the IPC.
      • Punishment: 
        • A minimum imprisonment of 10 years which is extendable to life along with fine.
        • 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.
      • Victim compensation and care:
        • Based on Supreme Court directions, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) asked States to make sure 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. 
        • 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.
    • Regulation of acid sales:
      • Order by Supreme Court:
        • In 2013, the Supreme Court took cognizance of acid attacks and passed an order on the regulation of sales of corrosive substances. 
      • Model Poisons Possession and Sale Rules, 2013:
        • Based on the order, the MHA issued an advisory to all states on how to regulate acid sales and framed the Rules under The Poisons Act, 1919
          • It asked states to frame their own rules based on model rules, as the matter fell under the purview of states.
        • Over-the-counter sale 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.
        • The sale is also to be made only when the buyer produces a photo ID containing his address issued by the government. 
        • The buyer must also prove he/she is above 18 years of age.
        • Sellers are 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.
        • The rules ask 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.
      • Advisory by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA): 
        • In 2015, MHA issued an advisory to all states to ensure speedy justice in cases of acid attacks by expediting prosecution.
        • In August 2021, MHA issued another advisory to all States/ UTs to review and ensure that the retail sale of acids and chemicals is strictly regulated in terms of the Poison Rules so that these are not used in crime.
        • MHA suggested that states should also extend social integration programs to the victims for which NGOs could be funded to exclusively look after their rehabilitative requirements.

    Way Ahead

    • The key to solving this problem remains in society. Parents must teach their children the importance of boundaries and consent.
    • There is a strong need to create more awareness
    • Things have improved compared to the past as social attitudes are changing and the focus of the police in dealing with crimes against women can cause some deterrence.

    Source: IE