An Introduction to Section 326A of Indian Penal Code (IPC)
This Blog is written by Aditya Awasthi from Asian Law College, Noida. Edited by Prakriti Dadsena.
Women in different parts of India have faced acid attacks from men for several reasons, most common among them being a repudiation of proposals. Men track down these women, confront them and attack them with acid leaving them severely scarred. Though the physical injury may heal after arduous and numerous operations, the mental injuries remain for life . Acid violence is the premeditated use of acid to attack another human being. The sufferers of acid violence are overwhelmingly women and children, and attackers often aim at the head and face in order to hurt, disfigure, and blind. The act hardly ever kills but causes severe physical, psychological, and social scarring, and victims are often left with no legal remedy, limited access to medical or psychological aid, and without the means to support themselves. Acid violence is a worldwide phenomenon that is not restricted to a particular race, religion or geographical location .
Acid attack can be viewed to denote “any act of throwing acid or using acid in any form on the victim with the intention of or with knowledge that such person is likely to cause to the other person permanent or partial damage or deformity or disfiguration to any part of the body of such person . Though acid attack is a crime which can be committed against any man or woman, it has a specific gender dimension in India. Most of the reported acid attacks have been committed on women, particularly young women for spurning suitors, for rejecting proposals for marriage, for denying dowry etc .
EFFECTS OF ACID ATTACK
The survival rate of acid attacks is high (Acid Survivors Trust International). Consequently, victims live with catastrophic effects, which can be categorized broadly into three categories:
The severity of bodily injury depends primarily on the concentration or the type of acid used for the attack, and secondarily on the amount of time the body was exposed to the acid. The longer a body is exposed the more harm the victim will endure. Acids are so corrosive they rapidly dissolve skin, fat and muscle, and even reach bones and organs in some cases (Law Commission of India, 2009). Victims suffer complete or partial destruction of vital body parts such as eyelids, ears, nose, nostrils, mouth, lips, eyes, cheeks, chin, neck, forehead, skull, breasts (including destruction or cessation of development of breasts in young girls), shoulders, and hair, all of which impair a victim for life (Law Commission of India, 2009). Victims also inhale lethal fumes from the acid and burned body parts, which in a majority of cases, either causes a poisonous reaction in a victim’s lungs or swelling of the throat, which can lead to difficulty breathing and death due to asphyxiation (Law Commission of India, 2009).
Victims also suffer severe psychological trauma, primarily due to the pain and terror they undergo during an attack, and secondarily due to the realization that they have a permanently disfigured/disabled body (Law Commission of India, 2009). This destruction of the victim’s primary physical/social identity exposes them to severe psychological diseases over the lifespan. Victims report suffering severe depression, insomnia, recurring nightmares, fear of another attack, headaches, and reluctance to face the world or participate in society.
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC EFFECTS
Victims also become physically dependent on family and friends for essential daily activities as the attack destroys their prospects of marriage or employment. Victims often become a subject of pity, stares, and mockery due to their scars and disfigurement (Law Commission of India, 2009), which ultimately results in relinquishment of education and hope for the future. Since acid attacks have such severe consequences, victims need urgent remedies including compensation so they can try to correct their physical disabilities with the help of corrective surgeries.
Before 2013, there was no specific law for acid attacks in our country. Causing Grievous Hurt by Dangerous Weapons or Means was not so effective in dealing with this heinous form of crime because it does not include acid attack. The eighteenth law commission of India which was headed by Justice A.R. Lakshmanan then proposed a new Section 326A and 326B in the India Penal Code and Section 114B in the Indian Evidence Act.
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.  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. Section 326A lays down the punishment for acid throwing. The minimum punishment is 10 years’ imprisonment. It can extend up to life imprisonment with fine. Section 326 B lays down the punishment for attempted acid throwing. The minimum punishment is 5 years’ imprisonment. It can extend up to 7 years’ imprisonment with fine. This amendment included punishment for those people who practice this heinous form of crime but the amendment was ineffective because after also people use to practice.
COMPENSATION FOR ACID ATTACK
Section 357 B has been newly inserted in CrPC which reads as : “The compensation payable by the State Government under section 357A shall be in addition to the payment of fine to the victim under section 326A or section 376D of the Indian Penal Code.”
Lila Devi v. State of Bihar  is a case where the callous and unfeeling approach of the judiciary is evident in cases on acid attacks. In the said case, the accused along with three others threw acid on the victim on 21 July 1993. The trial court took 25 years to award just 2 years sentence to the main accused and acquitted all other accused. Further, the High Court converted this meagre punishment of 2 years into 5,000 fine.
Laxmi v. Union of India  This is a landmark case, in this case, the petition filed by the Laxmi (Acid Victim). In this case, Apex Court issued the direction for the regulation of acid to the State and UT. The court also addressed the problem of compensation. The Apex Court held that “Section 357A  this section provides for the preparation of a scheme for providing funds for the purpose of compensation to the victim or his dependents who have suffered loss or injury as a result of crime and who require rehabilitation.” The Apex Court direct that the acid attacks victims shall be paid compensation of at least Rs. 3 Lakh by the concerned State Government/UT as the aftercare and rehabilitation cost.
Parivartan Kendra v. Union of India  I this case the PIL filed the petition for the plight of acid attack victims like free medical care, rehabilitative service or adequate compensation under Survivor Compensation Schemes- Highlighted plight of two Dalit girls – Acid attack victims. In this case, court also took a consideration that despite orders and directions of the same court in the Laxmi case, acid still readily available to most of the population in India. In this landmark judgment Supreme Court issued a direction that “the State Governments/ UT should seriously discuss and take up the matter with all the private hospitals in their respective State/ UT to the effect that the private hospitals should not refuse treatment to victims of acid attack and that full treatment should be provided to such victims including medicines, food, bedding and reconstructive surgeries.” The Apex Court said that there is no need to set up a separate Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and the Court also clarified that the State Government/UT concerned can give even more amount of compensation more than Rs. 3Lakh.
Maqbool v. State of UP & Others  In cases of acid attacks, if the injury inflicted on the victim is simple, whether Section 326A IPC, will be applicable on him. The court observed “Section 326A carries title of ‘voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid’ whereas Section 326B does not carry any such indication in the title regarding the nature of injury as grievous. But on close analysis it can be seen that both the section provides for eight consideration types of injury—(i) permanent damage, (ii) partial damage (iii) deformity (iv) burns (v) maiming (vi) disfigurement (vii) disability (viii) grievous hurt. The first seven injuries classified based on the normal after effect of the acid whereas the eighth one is on the gravity of effect. Under Sections 326A and 326B, grievous hurt is only one of the eight injuries. If the injury referred to under Section 326A or 326B is one among the specified eight injuries, whether the seven of them be simple or grievous, special provisions are attracted.” The accused was held liable under Section 326A, IPC and was awarded 7 years imprisonment.
It has been observed by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) that legal service institutions can play a pivotal role in providing access to compensation under Victim Compensation Scheme. It came out with NALSA (Legal Services to Victims of Acid Attacks) Scheme, 2016.
Its main objectives are as follows:
(1) To strengthen legal aid and representation at the national, state, district and taluka levels for victims of acid attacks in availing the benefits of the various legal provisions and schemes for compensation which exists;
(2) To enable the victims of acid attacks to get access to medical facilities and rehabilitative services;
(3) To create and spread awareness about the entitlements of the victims of acid attacks through the District Legal Services Authorities, Taluka Legal Service Committees, panel lawyers, para legal volunteers and legal service clinics;
(4) To enhance capacities at all levels of penal lawyers, para legal volunteers, volunteers in legal services, government officers tasked with the implementation of the various schemes, service providers, police personnel, non-governmental organizations by organizing training, orientation and sensitization programme; and
(5) To understand research and documentation to study the various schemes, laws, etc., to find out the gaps, the needs and to make suggestions to the appropriate authority. 
1. The following steps should be adopted to improve justice for victims and prevent acid attacks:
2. India must establish a process for accurately counting incidence and prevalence rates of acid attacks. The National Crime Records Bureau (India) should prepare annual reports with reliable data to attract the attention of NGO’s and other non-government organizations that work to prevent the crime.
3. States must ensure that the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court of India in Laxmi v. Union of India are diligently followed.
4. Police must be directed to complete their investigations and dispose of cases expeditiously, which will help reduce the time spent by courts finally resolving cases.
5. Section 114 B should be added to The Indian Evidence Act by way of an amendment to help improve conviction rates.
6. The Indian government should undertake a public education campaign to educate people about the importance of thoroughly washing a victim’s body with water immediately after an acid attack, in order to reduce the severity of injuries.
7. The Indian government must begin to educate young people about patriarchy, women’s equality, human autonomy, privacy and non-violence. The public must also be educated to treat acid attack victims as normal citizens and not to stigmatize or shame them. Victims must be assured opportunities to obtain employment and education, and cultural narratives should be reframed to help the public understand why acid attacks crimes are committed predominantly against women by men, and are the product of an intolerable patriarchal society and unacceptably inadequate legal system that treats such violence against women as a meager offense rather than a serious life-threatening crime that damages victims for life, harm and threatens all Indian women as a class of people, and undermines the very fabric of civilized Indian society.
An acid attack has the long-lasting durability of spoiling the victim who faces perpetual torture, permanent damage, and other problems in their life. Although they are ready to pursue a normal life, there is no faith that society itself will treat them as normal human beings given their appearance and disabilities after an attack. They may not be able to work. As a result of which they prefer a darken life to live and to hide from the world. Therefore, to check attacks on women harsh and stringent punishment should be given to offenders. The women should learn physical defensive measures in order to protect themselves from the perpetrators. Again the government should take appropriate action in order to combat this heinous crime.
 National Commission of India, July 2009
 Law Commission of India, July 2009
 The 226th Report of Law Commission of India, July 2003, p. 3
 Lila Devi @ Nilam Devi v. State Of Bihar decided on 3 February 2018
 Laxmi v. Union of India 2014 4 SCC 427
 Inserted in the Code of Criminal Procedure,1973 by Act 5 of 2009
 Parivartan Kendra v. Union of India 2015 (13) SCALE 325