Life imprisonment is the only way to reduce acid attacks
Recently, a trial court in Delhi gave a man who threw acid on an 18-year-old girl an unusual punishment – the maximum punishment prescribed under Section 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by weapons or means) of the IPC (Indian Penal Code). He said:
This is a case of an overzealous lover who could not get his love, and out of sheer frustration threw acid on the victim’s face… it has reduced the victim to nothing but a moving mass of bones and flesh.”
I do not know if this punishment will be upheld by a higher court but I hope it is. Acid Attacks show no signs of decreasing and in fact are common in several Asian countries, in particular countries like India, in , and in . In most of the cases the victims are women and in most are burnt because they spurn the love of their attacker. Although both men and children have been victims as well (acid is simply another weapon to cause serious hurt) but the majority of the victims are women.
What about the rest of the world?
Well, if one takes violence against women, no country is immune as it is a global problem. Whether it is the United States, or the United Kingdom, or in fact other countries like or or China or even . It’s just that the frequency differs, depending on the law and order situation in the country, it’s justice system and ofcourse the status of women in that country.
Crime by jealous lovers also happen in all countries and I am reminded of the well publicized case of O.J. Simpson in the US who was accused of killing his ex-wife and her lover.
It’s nothing to do with celebrities or glamour
O.J Simpson’s case was publicized because he was a celebrity but actually ordinary people suffer these things far more than celebrities. Mumbai’s most recent such incident is a case in point. A young model’s mother and uncle were murdered by the model’s (Moon Das) ex-boyfriend (Avinash Patnaik) who put a bullet into his own head when he realised that the police had been called. He was just 22. For some odd reason there are articles in the media which talk of celebrities being subject to such incidents! These kind of articles appear whenever a celebrity commits suicide or is attacked or murdered. In reality ordinary girls suffer far more than those in the glamour world!
Why does a jealous lover act in a murderous way?
Well, Bangladesh (which has a high incidence of this problem) has compiled statistics pertaining to this particular crime here. A significant number of crimes happen due to property disputes (and men are attacked too) but an alarming number happen because a woman spurns the proposal of the attacker. Looks like William Congreve’s saying that Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned actually applies to men, and not to women…
To me at least the reason for such attacks by jilted lovers are clear. The killers (assuming they are mentally sound) are spoilt brats who cannot take no for an answer. They feel if they can’t have the girl, no one else should.
The law is not a deterrent
An acid attack is a very cruel and inhuman act, horrible because the victim lives and suffers the disfigurement but the perpretrators get away with minor punishment if the victim does not die. But murder is rarely the motive, life-long torture is! There are few cases like the Delhi one (mentioned above) where the punishment given is life imprisonment. Only one other case as far as I know where an acid attacker was given life. Everything is left to the judge and whether he realises the seriousness of the crime.
Even the Supreme Court has recognized that victims are not getting justice and has in fact termed an acid attack as “worse than murder”. This was in response to a petition by a minor girl Laxmi, from Delhi, a victim of an acid attack who was “seeking framing of new law to deal with acid attack as a special offence which has increased manifold in past few years”. Her arms, face and other body parts were severely disfigured and deformed in the acid attack, and she desired that new laws be framed for dealing with the offence. The court has asked the government to look into this, and has also demanded that adequate compensation should be paid to victims to such attacks.
The Karnataka government has acted
Just this month, the state government of Karnataka finally notified the “framing a comprehensive compensation and rehabilitation package, exclusively for acid attack victims in the State.” This is the result of the CSAAAW (Campaign and Struggle Against Acid Attacks on Women) filing a PIL in the High Court in 2006 demanding relief and rehabilitation to the survivors of these attacks. This a great step and hopefully other Indian states emulate this!
Perhaps we could also take a tip from Bangladesh which has a special law to deal with acid attacks. Some years ago the country passed two laws, including the provision for the death sentence for acid attacks. These are the Acid Crimes Control Act, 2002, under which “those found guilty of killing a person by splashing acid on the victim will get the death sentence and be fined 100,000 taka”. Another law is to “restrict production, import, transportation, storing and selling of acid in the country” and the punishment is 1-15 years in prison.
True, passing of laws will not do the job (in Bangladesh the problem is still very serious) as the law machinery has to work as well. But such a law is an urgent requirement in any country where frequency of acid attacks is on the rise.