Acid Attack is one of the grave offences against the human body which involves infliction of assault by one person who throws acid on another person. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 introduced many important provisions to the Indian Penal Code. Section 5 of the Amendment Act, 2013 inserted Sections 326A and 326B in IPC. These two provisions which were newly inserted provided punishment for the offences of causing grievous hurt by throwing acid and voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid respectively.
Background of inserting Sections 326A and 326B in the IPC
The 226th Report of the Law Commission of India had proposed that ‘acid attacks’ should be made as a specific offence under the Indian Penal Code and compensation should be paid to the victims.[i] This proposal was considered by the Justice Verma Committee Report in 2013. This Report majorly dealt with the offences against women and recommended many amendments to the existing law dealing with such offences.
The Report of Justice Verma Committee recognized the need for introducing new offence to punish the acid attackers. The report suggested that the provision under section 326 of IPC covered the offence of voluntarily causing grievous hurt using dangerous weapons which was the provision used to punish the acid attackers was inadequate, as the offence of acid attack is more heinous and, in many cases, gender-targeted[ii].
The Committee relied on the case of Sachin Jana v. State of West Bengal[iii], where the Supreme Court attracted Section 307 read with Section 34 of IPC and considered acid attack as an offence of attempting to murder. This interpretation was drawn by the Court in order to consider the intention of the attacker in causing injury to victim. The Apex Court further observed the insufficiency of the existing provisions to punish acid attack which is an offence of more gravity and heinous in nature. Keeping in view all the above-mentioned study, the Report recommended that the acid attack should be introduced as a new offence in IPC and to remove the insufficiency.
Prior to the enactment of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 which brought in the aspects of acid attack as new offences, it was promulgated as an Ordinance by the President of India in the light of protests against the 2012 Delhi Gang Rape. The need for introducing new offences against women was recognized and as a result of that acid attack was made an offence under the Ordinance which was later incorporated in the Amendment Act.
Along with the provisions under Sections 326A and 326B, the Amendment Act, 2013 also inserted an additional clause under Section 100 which provided an exception from criminal liability by granting a right of private defence extending to cause death of a person who has committed an act of throwing or administering acid or an attempt to throw or administer acid.
Acid Attack under the Indian Penal Code-
Chapter XV of the IPC deals with offences affecting the human body and Section 326A and Section 326B are specifically inserted under the head which deals with offences affecting human body committed by causing hurt.
Section 326A of the IPC punishes a person whoever causes grievous hurt voluntarily by use of acid. The offence under this section requires the following essentials-
1. The offender should have caused permanent or partial damage or deformity to any parts of the body or
2. The act of the offender should have caused injury such as burns or maims or disfigures or disables any parts of the body or
3. The act has caused grievous hurt to the victim
4. The reason for any of the above-mentioned injuries must be by an act of throwing or administering acid on the victim
5. The offender should also have the knowledge that the commission of the mentioned act would necessarily lead to injuring the victim and the offender should have the intention to cause such injury.
Under this provision the offence of causing grievous hurt to the victim by throwing acid or administering acid with an intention to cause such injury is punished. The punishment is also prescribed under the provision. The punishment is of the description which includes imprisonment for a term which is not less than ten years and which may extend to imprisonment for life and the offender is also liable to pay the fine.
Section 326A further provides that the fine imposed under this section shall be reasonable so as to meet the medical expenses of the victim and shall also be paid to the victim. This is a special provision where the fine amount is paid to the victim and is not deposited with the Government.
Section 326B punishes the offence of throwing or attempting to throw acid on another person to cause them injury. The offence under this section requires the following essentials-
1. The accused should throw or should have attempted to throw acid on another person or should have attempted to administer acid to such other person
2. The accused person has intention in committing an act as above-mentioned to cause permanent or partial damage or deformity or burns or maiming or disfigurement or disability or grievous hurt.
The accused person under section 326B is punished with imprisonment for a term not less than 5 years which may extend to 7 years and shall also liable to fine under this provision.
Explanation to Section 326B-
The provision further provides for two explanations.
1. The first explanation describes what is considered as acid for the purpose of sections 326A and 326B. This explanation provides that “acid” includes any substance which has any of the following characters (a) acidic or (b) corrosive character or (c) burning nature. Also, such substance as described should be capable of causing bodily injury which will lead to scars or disfigurement or temporary or permanent disability.
2. The second explanation provides that permanent or partial damage or deformity for the purpose of Sections 326A and 326B shall not be necessarily irreversible. Therefore, even if the injury caused is curable, the accused is held guilty of the offences under these provisions of IPC.
Further, it is pertinent to consider the case of Laxmi v. Union of India[iv], which brought in regulations as to the sale of acid in India. In the case of Laxmi v. Union of India[v], the Supreme Court laid down guidelines to curb the menace of acid attacks. The Court, in this case, directed the states to consider the enactment of appropriate provisions to regulate the sale of acid and also rehabilitation of the acid attack victims.
Frequently Asked Questions-
Is Acid Attack considered as an offence against women?
No, acid attack is considered as an offence under Chapter XV of IPC which covers offences against the human body. Therefore, acid attack provisions under section 326A and 326B of IPC covers the acid attacks against all genders.
How is the offence under Sections 326A and 326B classified?
The offences under Sections 326A and 326B are cognizable, non-bailable and triable by the Court of Sessions.
Edited by Sakshi Agarwal
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
[i] The 226th Report of Law Commission of India, July 2003, p. 3
[ii] The Report of Justice J. S. Verma Committee, 2013, paragraphs 4 to 9, pp. 146 to 148.
[iii] (2008) 3 SCC 290.
[iv]2013 (9) SCALE 291.