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Report No. 226

Chapter III

Cases Relating to Acid Attack in India

As India does not have a separate law governing the crime of acid attack, cases have been registered under different sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) particularly the sections relating to hurt, grievous hurt, grievous hurt by corrosive substances and attempt to murder and murder. However, as discussed earlier, the after effects of an acid attack even if the victim survives are distinct and scar the victim; who is usually a woman throughout her life both physically and mentally.

In some of the positive cases the accused have been charged with murder, as the intention of the attacker has been construed as an intention to kill the victim. Even in these positive cases however the amount of fine which has been levied has often been an insignificant amount. The victim has also often not been given this fine by the court.

In a 1998 Maharashtra case 1 acid was thrown on a woman, while she was holding her two and a half year old baby, by her brother-in-law for refusing to give money to maintain her husband's second wife. She sustained acid burns on the left side of her face, left hand and left breast and both she and her infant daughter lost their eyesight. The woman finally died due to burn injuries. In this case, the brother-in-law was sentenced by the Court under Section 302 of IPC, to undergo imprisonment for life and pay a fine of Rs. 1000 and also sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for a month.

Under Section 326 of the IPC he was awarded 5 years of imprisonment apart from a fine of Rs. 2000/-and 3 months of rigorous imprisonment. Though the accused was found guilty the learned Judge failed to appreciate that he should levy an adequate amount as fine and give this fine to the victim's child, who suffered from the attack in multiple ways.

1. Gulab Sahiblal Shaikh Vs. The State of Maharashtra, (1998 Bom CR(Cri).

In a 2002 case,1 the accused was suspicious about the character of his wife and inserted mercuric chloride into her vagina, she died due to renal failure. The accused was charged and convicted under Section 302 and 307 IPC.

1. Marepally Venkata Sree Nagesh Vs. State of A.p ( 2002 CriLJ 3625).

In another case1 before the Hon'ble Supreme Court in 1975, acid was poured on a woman by her husband for refusing to grant him divorce. The husband was involved in an extra-marital affair. Due to the attack, the victim suffered multiple acid burns on her face and other parts of her body, leading to her death. The accused was charged and convicted under Section 302 of the IPC. However, life imprisonment was not imposed even though the victim had died.

1. Revinder Singh Vs. State of Harayana(AIR 1975 SC 856).

In a case before the Madras High Court,1 a person suspected his wife had developed an illicit relationship with one of his acquaintances. In that fit of anger he threw acid on her resulting in severe burns and death of the victim. The husband was convicted under Sec 302 IPC and 313 IPC (causing miscarriage of a woman without her consent) with life imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 2000. The fine was thus again a meager amount.

1. Balu Vs. State Represented Inspector of police decided on 26/10/2006.

In Devanand Vs.The State, 1987 (1) Crimes 314, a man threw acid on his estranged wife because she refused to cohabit with him. The wife suffered permanent disfigurement and loss of one eye. The accused was convicted under Section 307 and was imprisoned for 7 years.2

2. See also Veerla Stayanarayna Vs State of A.P 2002(Supp)1 SC 489.

In a case before the Calcutta High Court1 the accused had made a previous abortive attempt to throw acid on the victim and succeeded on a second attempt. The motive for the crime was revenge as the victim had rebuffed the overtures of the main accused Ramesh. The accused along with two others went to the victims house and threw a bottle of acid on the victim outside her house where she, her mother, her aunt and her little son were sitting. The victim, her mother, her aunt and her son sustained injury.

The victim Padma died due to extensive acid burns on the neck, chest, right alna, breasts, legs, knees and scalp. Her aunt received 25% burns and her aunt's son received 11% burns. The additional sessions Judge awarded imprisonment for life and a fine for Rs. 5000 under Section 302 and 34 of the IPC. The appellants were also convicted under S. 324/34 IPC and sentenced to R.I. for one year and to pay a fine of Rs. 1,000/- each in default to suffer S.I. for two months.

Both sentences were to run concurrently. The High Court on appeal however, set aside the conviction and sentence against the other two accused by stating that there was no evidence to show they had a common intention and their presence with the accused on the scene of the crime was not enough.4

1. Ramesh Dey and Ors. vs. State of West Bengal, Decided on 16/5/2007.

2. See also Smt. Bhagwan Kuar Vs Krishna Maharaja ( AIR 1973 SC 1346).

In Srimanthula Chinna Sathaiah and Anr. Vs. State of A.P, 1998 (4) ALD 18. enmity developed between two men. The accused was suspicious that the other person had falsely implicated him in a case. He also suspected that his wife was having an affair with the victim's elder son. As a revenge the accused threw acid on the victim, which resulted in severe acid burns on the face and body. The accused was charged under Section 302 and 34 of the IPC and was awarded rigorous imprisonment for life.

In some cases which are targeted against women dowry and property can be the reasons for acid attacks. Property and land disputes and sometimes revenge1 can prove to be a motive for acid attacks against men. It appears that the idea that acid is an easy effective method of harming and killing enemies can spread to general attacks against both women and men.

1. See State of Madhya Pradesh Vs. Jhaddu and Ors. (1991 Supp(1)545).

In case before the Supreme Court of India1 the accused was the husband of the deceased, Sushila and wanted to kill her and their daughters, Bindu and Nandini to grab property as he was the immediate beneficiary to her estate. He poured acid over her to kill her. She received extensive burn injuries on large parts of their bodies including the face, chest, neck, etc. According to the Doctor the death was due to the corrosive acid burns and shock.

The High Court convicted the appellants Ram Charittar and Kishori Lal under Section 302/34 IPC, and sentenced them to life imprisonment. The appeal for their acquittal was dismissed by the Hon'ble Supreme Court. No compensation was awarded to the victims.

1. Ram Charittar and Anr. etc. vs. State of Uttar Pradesh etc. (04.04.2007 - SC).

In another case1 before the Madras High Court a nurse and a compounder conspired and poured a mixture of acid and kerosene over a doctor as revenge for an alleged rape by him of the nurse. The doctor sustained 100% burn injuries and later expired due to them. The accused were charged under Sec 302 and 109 of the IPC but were acquitted for the lack of evidence.

1. Mahesh and Parimaladevi Vs. State, Decided on 10/4/2003 by the Madras High Court.

In a case before the Supreme Court1 in a dispute between the deceased and accused regarding encroachment, the accused poured acid on the deceased and this caused severe acid burns resulting in death. The main accused was charged under Section 302 of the IPC and awarded rigorous imprisonment for life.

1. Barati Vs. State of U.P.(AIR 1974 SC 839).

Many cases in which death doesn't occur get registered under the sections related to hurt and grievous hurt and not attempt to murder as no intention of killing or knowledge that the offence is likely to cause death is attributed to the accused.

In a case before the Jharkhand High Court1 the victim was standing with her friend at a Bus Stop in Dhanbad. The Appellant came and poured acid over her head and face.The appellant had a photograph of the victim and was blackmailing her but she refused to accede to his demands. The victim suffered burn injuries over the left side of her eye, neck and chest and had to be hospitalized. A case was registered under Sections 324, 326, 307 IPC.

The police investigated the case and finally submitted a chargesheet against the appellant under the aforesaid sections. The learned 2nd Additional Sessions Judge, Dhanbad held the appellant guilty under Section 324 IPC and convicted and sentenced him to undergo RI for three years. The appellant's conviction was upheld by the Hon'ble High Court. No compensation whatsoever was awarded to the victim. In this case the court seems to have been guided by the nature of injuries which in its opinion did not amount to grievous hurt.2

1. Awadhesh Roy Vs. State of Jharkhand (Decided on 12/6/2006).

2. See also Students of A.P.A.U and Miss Anuradha, Student v. Registrar, A.P.A.U, N. Sreeniwasa Reddy, Student, 1997 (1) ALT 547.

In one of the most famous cases involving acid attack1 the accused threw acid on a girl, Hasina, for refusing his job offer. This deeply scarred her physical appearance, changed the colour and appearance of her face and left her blind. The accused was convicted under Section 307 of IPC and sentenced to imprisonment for life. A compensation of Rs. 2,00,000/- in addition to the Trial Court fine of Rs 3,00,000 was to be paid by the accused to Hasina's parents.

1. State of Karnataka by Jalahalli Police Station vs. Joseph Rodrigues S/o V.Z. Rodrigues (Decided in the Hon'ble High Court of Kerala on 22/8/2006).

This was a landmark case as it was the first time that a compensation which was quite a large sum was given to the victim to meet the medical expenses including that of plastic surgeries. However, no compensation was awarded for the after effects of the attack such as loss of income etc.

In a case from Delhi1 the accused threw acid on the victims face. The liquid splashed or her face produced some redness (erythema) on the skin over a part of her face involving her upper eye-lids. There was no corrosion, of the skin or other deformity. The accused was convicted for causing hurt under Section 323 of the IPC and a meager fine of Rs. 300 along with 15 days imprisonment was awarded. This sort of punishment for acid attack is in itself a mockery of sorts and does not take into consideration the gravity of the crime and its after effects like trauma which affects the victim throughout her life.

1. State(Delhi Administration) Vs. Mewa Singh 5(1969) DLT 506.

In Syed Shafique Ahmed Vs. State of Maharashtra, 2002 Cr LJ 1403, personal enemity with his wife was the reason behind a gruesome acid attack by the husband on his wife as well as another person . This caused disfiguration of the face of both the wife as well as that of the other person and loss of vision of right eye of wife. The accused was charged under Section 326 and 324 of the IPC and was awarded Rs 5000 as fine and 3 years imprisonment. This case again shows that the punishment that is often awarded does not take into account the deliberate and gruesome nature of the attack and rests on technicalities of injuries.

In another case1 due to enmity acid was poured by a mother and son duo over the victims. One of the victim suffered from multiple acid burns on the whole back extending from scapular spine to iliac crest. The other victim suffered Chemical burns on the right side forehead just above medial end of right eye brow and the skin blackened.

He also suffered from multiple acid burn on the lateral aspect of left upper arm and skin was blackened apart from other burns. The accused were convicted under Section 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 323/34 IPC (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt with common intention), with imprisonment of a year and rigorous imprisonment for one year.

1. State of Uttar Pradesh v. Smt Aqueela, 1999 Cr LJ 2754.

Thus over the years various kinds of acid attacks have been registered under the sections related to hurt, grievous hurt, murder etc. However, the nature and effect of the crime of acid attack is very distinct and complex and the Sections relating to hurt and grievous hurt do not provide an adequate relief and punishment. Apart from this the police often use their discretion to decide what sections should be registered in the case of acid attacks and this discretion is at times influenced by gender bias and corruption or is a wrong assessment.

In most of the cases no compensation has been awarded. In those in which compensation has been awarded the sum is minimal and is totally inadequate to meet even the medical expenses. Normally courts just levy fines without even giving these to the victims. The section on Compensation in the CrPC should therefore clearly spell out that the fines levied should be given to the victim or their dependents.

The victims suffer a great deal due to a slow judicial process, inadequate compensation and obviously from the after affect of the acid attack itself.

Thus, there is an urgent need to legislate distinct sections in the I.P.C to deal with acid attacks and to setup a Criminal Injuries Compensation Board in India to deal with such cases in an effective and efficient manner, to help the victims of acid attack to get compensation for medical expenses and rehabilitation apart from making Section 357 CrPC mandatory in certain respects.

The Inclusion of Acid Attacks as Specific Offences in the Indian Penal Code and a law for Compensation for Victims of Crime Back

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