India: New Law and Regulations to Combat Acid Attacks, but Little Support for Victims
Friday, July 26, 2013 4:00 PM

In February, the Indian government modified its penal code to recognize acid attacks as a separate criminal offense, carrying a minimum penalty of five years imprisonment and maximum penalty of life imprisonment and fine of one million rupees (nearly $17,000) for perpetrators. In July, the Indian Supreme Court ordered the government to regulate acid sales and provide victim compensation of 300,000 rupees.
A year after a 15-year-old was attacked in 2006, she filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Indian Supreme Court seeking compensation for victims, free medical treatment, and regulated over-the-counter sale of acid. It is estimated that 1000 acid attacks occur each year in India. The Law Commission of India reports that acid is usually thrown on the victim’s face with the intent to disfigure. The medical care required is extensive and the costs are exorbitant.
Seven years after the litigation was filed, the Supreme Court ordered the government to take action to regulate the sale of acid across the country and compensate victims a set amount of 300,000 rupees. The ruling is not retroactive and will not provide support to those who are already suffering. While providing some relief to future victims, activists say it falls short of the recommendations of Law Commission of India and the 2008 draft bill proposed by the National Commission for Women, which sought to provide victims with adequate medical treatment, psychological counseling, rehabilitation assistance, and legal support.
Compiled from: Kumar, Hari, “An Acid Attack Survivor Helps India Change Its Laws,” New York Times (25 July 2013); Venkatesan, J. “No Acid Sale Sans ID,” The Hindu Times (18 July 2013); Kazmi, Zehra, “Acid Attacks: A Look at India and Other Countries,” Hindustan Times (19 July 2013); Dasgupta, KumKum, “India’s Acid Attack Ruling Risks Rubbing Salt into Survivors’ Wounds,” The Gardian (23 July 2013); Raza, Danish, “’Just salt on our wounds’: Acid attack victims remain unhappy with SC rulings,” Firstpost India “SC Verdict on Acid Attacks Not Enough for Victims,” Times of India (20 July 2013).