From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : NA
Mains level : Women safety and dignity issues
An acid attack in in Delhi has once again brought back to focus the heinous crime of acid attacks and the easy availability of corrosive substances.
What is Acid Attack?
- An acid attack, also called acid throwing, vitriol attack, or vitriolage, is a form of violent assault involving the act of throwing acid or a similarly corrosive substance onto the body of another.
- It intends to disfigure, maim, torture, or kill.
- Perpetrators of these attacks throw corrosive liquids at their victims, usually at their faces, burning them, and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the bones.
- The most common types of acid used in these attacks are sulphuric and nitric acid.
- Hydrochloric acid is sometimes used but is much less damaging.
How prevalent are acid attacks in India?
- Though heinous, acid attacks on women are not as prevalent a crime as others against women.
- According to data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 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.
- 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.
What is the law on acid attacks?
- Until 2013, acid attacks were not treated as separate crimes.
- However, following amendments carried out in the IPC, acid attacks were put under a separate section (326A) of the IPC.
- Such attacks made punishable with a minimum imprisonment of 10 years which is extendable to life along with fine.
- 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.
Creating deterrence against acid attack
(1) Clear rules
- 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.
- It asked states to frame their own rules based on model rules, as the matter fell under the purview of states.
(2) Regulation of acid sale
- In 2015, MHA issued an advisory to all states to ensure speedy justice in cases of acid attacks by expediting prosecution.
- According to the MHA’s directions and the model rules, 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 buyer must also prove he/she is above 18 years of age.
(3) Effective monitoring
- 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.
Rules for victim compensation and care
- Free treatment: States are supposed to ensure that treatment provided to acid attack victims in any hospital, public or private, is free of cost.
- Aftercare and rehabilitation: Based on Supreme Court directions, the MHA asked states to make sure acid attack victims are paid compensation of at least Rs. 3 lakhs by the concerned State Government/UT.
- Funding to NGOs: MHA suggested states should also extend social integration programs to the victims for which NGOs could be funded to exclusively look after their rehabilitative requirements.
Preventing such attacks
- Still on rise: The regulations on acid sales largely help in tracking the accused and not so much in prevention.
- Regulatory bottlenecks: Acid is still easily available in many places. Then these are crimes of passion. In a majority of cases the accused is not even thinking about consequences.
- Things improve as social attitudes are changing and the focus of the police in dealing with crimes against women can cause some deterrence.
- But the key to solving this problem will always remain in society.
- We must create more awareness. Parents must teach their children the importance of boundaries and consent.
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