Critical Analysis on 'Grievous hurt' & 'Acid attack' in the light of Criminal Law (Amend.) Act, 2013
[This article is authored by Mr Devansh Solanki, Lloyd Law College, Greater Noida]
This article will analyse the ‘Grevious hurt’ & ‘Acid attack’ Laws prevalent in India both before and after the Criminal (Amendment) Act of 2013 which brought about some very necessary changes in India. Acid Attack is one of the serious offences against the body which involves the infliction of assault by one person to another person. Its attack rarely kills a human being but it causes psychological, physical and social scarring. However, Acid attack, in general, is not any gender-specific crime; both men and women commit this horrific offence. The Criminal Law (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.
ANALYSIS OF LAWS BEFORE THE CRIMINAL LAW AMENDMENT (2013)
Till 2013 amendment, there was no particular law in India to deal with the heinous crimes like acid attack. Only the Sections under Indian Penal Code provided relief to these victims. But it was observed that these sections do not satisfy the gravity that is required for the seriousness of these offences. Moreover, the term "acid attack" was not defined anywhere in the sections, and the provisions also limit them to corrosive substances.
Attacks like these destroys the body, specially the face of the victim. It melts human flesh and even bones, also leave the victim burned, blinded, and mutilated. It also causes extreme pain and terror for the rest of their lives which is worse than death. For instance, in the case of Ravinder Singh v. State of Haryana acid was poured on a woman by her husband for refusing to give her divorce. The husband was in extra-marital affair. Due to this attack, the wife suffered various acid burns on her entire body, which ended up to her death. The husband was only charged under Section 307 of the IPC also life imprisonment was not imposed even after the death of the wife.
In Syed Shafique Ahmed V. State of Maharashtra,acid attack because of the personal issues 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 eyesight of the wife. The accused was charged under Section 326 and 324 of the IPC and was given the punishment of only Rs.5000 as fine and 3 years imprisonment. After all these cases it was felt that there was a need to enact an effective, specific & efficacious laws on the issue of acid attack and to cover all the inadequacy that was there in the old existing laws.
LACUNAS IN THE INDIAN PENAL CODE
In the IPC Sections like 322, defines voluntarily causing grievous hurt and Section 325, which provides for punishment for grievous hurt. The offence is punishable by imprisonment up to seven years also they are bailable. If the delinquent causes only skin damage to the victim of acid attack, with no substantial damage to other organs, it would not come under the compass of grievous hurt. Further, no provisions are there if there is a loss of income of the victim, moreover if the accused is not charged under grievous hurt, and then it will fall under hurt, which has a very nominal punishment of three years imprisonment which is clearly an injustice to the massive loss suffered by the victim.
Also, the scope of the definition of section 326 is very narrow; it does not deal adequately with the issue of acid attack because:
The section does not cover the act of regulation of the acid attack, i.e., planning it.
It does not cover the several kinds of injuries inflicted because of an acid attack.
The section also does not clears, to whom the fine should be awarded.
The section does not punish the intention of throwing of acid if no injuries occur.
ANALYSIS OF LAWS AFTER THE CRIMINAL LAW AMENDMENT (2013)
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 introduced many important provisions to the Indian Penal Code and it bought into light the earnestness to deal to this acid attack offence. According to the Section 5 of the Amendment Act inserted Sections 326A and 326B in IPC. The proposal was considered by the Justice Verma Committee Report in 2013 in 226th Report of the Law Commission of India. This Report mostly dealt with the offences against women and recommended many amendments to the existing law dealing with such offences.
The Committee relied on the case of Sachin Jana v. State of West Bengal, where the Supreme Court attracted Section 307 read with Section 34 of IPC and considered acid attack as an offence of attempting to murder. Further, it is relevant to consider the case of Laxmi v. Union of India, The Court, in this case, directed the states to consider the enactment of proper provisions to regulate the sale of acid and also rehabilitation of the victims also because of her PIL sought framing of a new law, or this amendment, Indian Evidence Act and CrPC for dealing with this heinous offence. In her PIL she had also argued for the complete ban on sale of acid and then petition led Supreme Court to give a historic decision regarding regulations on sale of acid.
These two sections which were provided for punishment of the offences, causing grievous hurt by throwing acid and voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid respectively.
Section 326(A) IPC: punishes a person whoever causes grievous hurt voluntarily by use of acid. The offence under this section requires the following-
The offender should have caused eternal or partial damage or deformity to any parts of the body or
The act of the offender should have caused injury such as burns, disfigures or disables any parts of the body or
The act has caused grievous hurt to the victim
The reason for any of the above-mentioned injuries must be by an act of administering acid on the victim.
The offender should also know 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 section the offence of grievous hurt to the victim by throwing acid or administering acid with an intention to cause such injury is punished. The punishment includes imprisonment for a term which is not less than ten years and which may extend to imprisonment for life and fine which should meet the medical expenses of the victim.
Section 326(B): 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-
The accused must have thrown or should have attempted to throw acid on another person or should have tried to administer acid to such other person.
The accused person must have mens rea in committing an act as above-mentioned to cause eternal, partial damage, deformity, burns, disfigurement, disability or grievous hurt.
The accused will be 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.
Another crucial step which has been brought by the Criminal Amendment Act, 2013 was the inclusion of Section 357C to CRPC which states that all hospitals, public as well as private, whether run by the Central Government, the State Government, local bodies, shall instantaneously provide first-aid or medical treatment, free of cost to the victims of any offence covered under Sections 326A, 376, 376A, 376B, 376C, 376D or 376E of the IPC, and shall also notify the police without any further delay.
Acid attacks are the most inimical form of violence which has long-lasting consequences on the life of the victim who faces perpetual torture, permanent damage and other problems throughout their life. Mostly the victims may not be able to work, or to find a job, and much more perpetually struggle to survive. Also, undoubtedly the criminal law amendment act, 2013 is a positive sign and justice has been served to the victim according to the gravity of the offence but the crime rate are still not decreasing also the acid are easily available in the market, which is the issue of concern. So instead of making laws now the government should take appropriate action which actually will help the victim.
References:  Ravinder Singh v. State of Haryana, AIR 856, 1975 SCR 453.  Syed Shafique Ahmed v. State of Maharashtra, (2002) Cri LJ 1403.  Mrs. Arundhati Das & Dr. Subhamoy Banik, A Study on Acid Attack in India and its Impact, Journal of Emerging Technologies and Innovative Research, Pg. 7,8 (2019).  Sachin Jana and Anr v. State Of West Bengal, (2008) SCC 390.  Laxmi v. Union Of India. (2014) 4 SCC 427.  Ms. Megha Bajpai & Ms. Sugandha Singh, Acid Attack: A Burning Issue in India, Galgotias Journal of Legal Studies (2015).
~About the Author~
Mr Devansh Solanki is a 4th year law student at Lloyd Law College, Greater Noida pursuing B.A. LL.B. (5 Year Course).