What is Acid Attack?

[Trigger Warning: The following content contains information on physical violence which some readers may find disturbing.] 

An acid attack is the crime of hurting a person by throwing acid on them, administering acid1 to that person or doing anything with acid with the intention or knowledge that it would harm the person. An acid attack may result in injuries to a person, in any part of the body, including2:

  • Permanent or partial damage or deformity to a person
  • Burns on any body parts
  • Maiming, dis-figuration or any form of disability of a person.

Even though the main definition of acid attack is given in the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Law Commission of India has also defined an acid attack, as a form of violence against women where the perpetrator splashes a person or object with acid in order to deface or kill them.3

An acid attack can happen anywhere. Incidents of acid attack have frequently taken place at home, on the streets and even at work places.

  1. Compensation Scheme for Women Victims/Survivors of Sexual Assault/other Crimes 2018, National Legal Services Authority, accessed at https://wcd.nic.in/sites/default/files/Final%20VC%20Sheme_0.pdf.[]
  2. The Scheme for Relief and Rehabilitation of Offences (by Acids) on Women and Children, 2009 National Commission for Women, accessed at http://ncwapps.nic.in/PDFFiles/Scheme_ACID_Attack.pdf.[]
  3. Proposal for the Inclusion of Acid Attacks as Specific Offences in the Indian Penal Code and a Law for Compensation for Victims of Crime, Law Commission of India No 226, 2008, accessed at https://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/report226.pdf.[]

Who does the law protect?

[Trigger Warning: The following content contains information on physical violence which some readers may find disturbing.] 

The law on acid attack protects all persons, regardless of their gender. Further, there are no specifications in the law in terms of the age of the survivor. Therefore, an acid attack, whether carried out on a person of any age is punishable under the law.1 The law also protects foreigners who are survivors of acid attack if it happens in India.2

  1. Sections 326A and 326B, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]
  2. Section 2, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]

What are the rights a person has under this law?

[Trigger Warning: The following content contains information on physical violence which some readers may find disturbing.

Survivors of acid attacks have the following rights under the law:

Right to Seek Medical Treatment

A survivor of an acid attack has the right to seek medical treatment in both government and private hospitals. The Supreme Court issued guidelines for acid attack crimes where they said that:

  • No hospital or clinic can refuse to treat acid attack survivors citing the lack of specialized facilities.1
  • Government and private hospitals have to provide survivors with first-aid and medical treatment free of cost.1

The court has placed the responsibility for the treatment and rehabilitation of survivors on the state government.2 Additionally, it has expected states and union territories to take action against hospitals that refuse to treat acid attack survivors.1

Right to File a Complaint 

Acid attack survivors also have the right to file a complaint against the perpetrator. The complaint can also be filed by the survivor’s relative, friend or acquaintance, any person who has witnessed the crime, or any person who comes to know of the crime. To see a list of other persons who can file the complaint, see here.

The complaint filed is known as a First Information Report (“FIR”). The FIR is a document that contains the information that a police officer fills out when she gets information on the commission of a cognizable offence. To learn how to file an FIR, you can read our explainer on ‘How to file an FIR’.

An FIR can be filed at any police station, regardless of whether it has jurisdiction over the commission of the crime or not. This information will then be transferred to a police station with the requisite jurisdiction. This concept is generally known as a zero FIR. To understand more about zero FIRs, you can read our explainer on ‘Where can FIR be Filed’.

Right to Compensation

Acid attack survivors have the right to seek compensation from the state government. The Victims Compensation Scheme3 that was drafted by the National Legal Services Authority, was approved by the Supreme Court in 2018. It provides for mandatory compensation for survivors of acid attacks as well as sexual crimes including sexual assault, murder, kidnapping etc. Apart from compensation under this scheme, the survivor receives the fine amount that the perpetrator pays for committing the crime which is charged by the Court.4

Various state governments have formed Victim Compensation Schemes for acid attack survivors. Keeping in mind that there is a lack of uniformity in the state schemes, and the amount of compensation specified in most of these schemes is too low, the Supreme Court stated that:

  • The minimum amount of Rupees 3 lakh must be provided by the state government to every survivor.5 This is the minimum amount, and the state government can provide a higher amount, where necessary.6
  • Any compensation amount must factor in not only the survivor’s physical injuries but also their inability to lead a full life.6
  • The Chief Secretary/ Administrator of the state/UT concerned must ensure that this amount is paid.7

To learn more on information on schemes in different states for survivors of violence, contact details of one-stop centres, protection officers and helpline numbers, check out the Nyaaya Map on Key Information for Survivors of Violence.

Given below are the list of State Victim Compensation Schemes in India:

State Name of the Scheme
Arunachal Pradesh Arunachal Pradesh Victim Compensation Scheme, 2011
Assam Assam Victim Compensation Scheme, 2012
Bihar Bihar Victim Compensation Scheme, 2011
Chattisgarh Chattisgarh Victim Compensation Scheme, 2011
Chandigarh Chandigarh Victim Assistance Scheme, 2012
Dadra and Nagar Haveli Dadra and Nagar Haveli Victim Assistance Scheme, 2012
Daman and Diu Daman and Diu Victim Assistance Scheme, 2012
Delhi Delhi Victim Compensation Scheme, 2015
Goa Goa Victim Compensation Scheme, 2012
Gujarat Gujarat Victim Compensation Scheme, 2013
Haryana Haryana Victim Compensation Scheme, 2013
Himachal Pradesh Himachal Pradesh (Victim of Crime) Compensation Scheme, 2012
Jammu and Kashmir Jammu and Kashmir Victim Compensation Scheme, 2013
Jharkhand Jharkhand Victim Compensation Scheme, 2012
Karnataka Karnataka Victim Compensation Scheme, 2011
Kerala Kerala Victim Compensation Scheme, 2014
Lakshadweep Lakshadweep Victim Assistance Scheme, 2012
Manipur Manipur Victim Compensation Scheme, 2011
Meghalaya Meghalaya Victim Compensation Scheme, 2014
Mizoram Mizoram Victims Compensation Scheme, 2011
Maharashtra Maharashtra Victim Compensation Scheme, 2014
Madhya Pradesh Madhya Pradesh Victim Compensation Scheme, 2015
Nagaland Nagaland Victim Compensation Scheme, 2012
Odisha Odisha Victim Compensation Scheme, 2012
Puducherry Puducherry Victim Assistance Scheme, 2012
Punjab Punjab Victim Compensation Scheme, 2017
Rajasthan Rajasthan Victim Compensation Scheme, 2011
Sikkim Sikkim Compensation to Victims or his Dependents Scheme, 2011
Tamil Nadu Tamil Nadu Victim Compensation Scheme for Women Victims/Survivors of Sexual Assault/other Crimes, 2018
Tripura Tripura Victim Compensation Scheme, 2012
Uttar Pradesh Uttar Pradesh Victim Compensation Scheme, 2014
Uttrakhand Uttarakhand Victim from Crime Assistance Scheme, 2013
West Bengal West Bengal Victim Compensation Scheme, 2012
  1. Laxmi v. Union of India and Others, (2016) 3 SCC 669, order dated 10/4/2015 [34], [35].[][][]
  2. Parivartan Kendra v. Union of India and others, (2016) 3 SCC 571 [29].[]
  3. Compensation Scheme for Women Victims/Survivors of Sexual Assault/other Crimes 2018, National Legal Services Authority, accessed at https://wcd.nic.in/sites/default/files/Final%20VC%20Sheme_0.pdf.[]
  4. Section 357B, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.[]
  5. Laxmi v. Union of India and Others, (2014) 4 SCC 427 [13], [14].[]
  6. Parivartan Kendra v. Union of India and others, (2016) 3 SCC 571 [20], [21].[][]
  7. Laxmi v. Union of India and Others, (2014) 4 SCC 427 [14].[]

What are the offences and punishments under this law?

[Trigger Warning: The following content contains information on physical violence which some readers may find disturbing.

The crimes relating to acid attacks have been specified under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Anyone can be punished for the crimes given below regardless of their gender. They are:

Throwing acid or attempting to throw acid

Throwing acid on a person and hurting them is a crime. The punishment for throwing acid is jail time of minimum 10 years that can be extended to life imprisonment along with a fine that is reasonable enough to meet the medical expenses of the acid attack survivor.1

Additionally, throwing or attempting to throw acid on a person is also a crime. The punishment is jail time of a minimum of 5 years and can be extended to 7 years, along with a fine.2

Helping someone throw acid

Helping someone throw acid is also a crime. Helping someone commit a crime is known as abetment under the law. The punishment for abetment is the same as the punishment for throwing1 or attempting to throw acid3 on another person.

Refusing to treat or provide free immediate treatment to an acid attack survivor

An acid attack survivor has a right to medical treatment and a hospital refusing to provide such treatment is a crime under the law. A complaint can be filed before the police against a person who refuses to treat the survivor.4

Besides the specific acid attack crimes in the Indian Penal Code, 1860, other crimes can also be implicated or written in the FIR or charge sheet by the police in the case of acid attacks. These include murder,5 attempt to murder,6 hurting someone with dangerous weapons,7 and causing grievous hurt.5

  1. Section 326A, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[][]
  2. Section 326B, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]
  3. Section 326B, Indian Penal Code, 1860; Section 109, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]
  4. Section 357C, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.[]
  5. Section 325, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[][]
  6. Section 307, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]
  7. Section 324, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]

Are the offences bailable or non-bailable/ cognizable?

The crime of throwing or helping someone throw acid, is both cognizable and non-bailable.1

A cognizable offence is a crime for which a police officer can arrest the perpetrator without a warrant.2

Non-bailable offence is a crime for which bail is not a right and the discretion lies with the court to either grant it or not. To learn more about bail in non-bailable offences, you can read our explainer on Bail for Non-Bailable Offences.

  1.  Sections 326A and 326B, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]
  2.  Section 2(c), Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.[]

How do you seek medical treatment?

[Trigger Warning: The following content contains information on physical violence which some readers may find disturbing.]

The medical process for the treatment of acid attack survivors is:

Step 1: First Steps and Immediate Treatment

The survivor should be rushed to the nearest hospital to receive immediate medical treatment. The treatment must be provided free of cost.1 First aid must be administered and the survivor needs to be stabilized. Legal action can be taken against any hospital that refuses to provide medical assistance to the survivor.1

Step 2: Medical Treatment of Survivor

Once the survivor has received primary treatment, they may then either be shifted to a specialized hospital for further treatment or treated in that same hospital, if they have the facilities to do so.

Step 3: Medical Certificate for Survivor

The hospital where the survivor is first treated should provide the individual with a certificate stating that the person is a survivor of an acid attack. This certificate may be used for treatment and reconstructive surgeries or any other state government or Union Territory schemes that the person may wish to avail of.2  Further, it must be attached to the application for claiming compensation under the Victims Compensation Scheme.

  1. Section 357C, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.[][]
  2. Laxmi v. Union of India and Others, (2016) 3 SCC 669, order dated 10/4/2015 [37].[]

Who can file a Complaint?

[Trigger Warning: The following content contains information on physical violence which some readers may find disturbing.

The complaint can be filed by:

  • The survivor of the acid attack
  • A relative, friend or acquaintance
  • Any person who has witnessed the crime
  • Any person who knows such an attack is going to happen

The first point of contact for anyone who wants to complain about the crime is the police. It is not necessary that you must have all the information about the crime in order to file an FIR (First Information Report). But it is important that you report everything you know to the police. You can find out more about how to file an FIR here.

An FIR in itself is not a criminal case filed against someone. It is just information received by the police relating to the commission of a crime. A criminal case begins when the charge sheet is filed by the police before the court and a Public Prosecutor is appointed by the State.

How do you file a complaint?

[Trigger Warning: The following content contains information on physical violence which some readers may find disturbing.

The legal process following an acid attack is:

Step 1: File an FIR

A First Information Report (“FIR”) can be filed in the police station against the accused. This FIR can either be filed by the survivor, their family members, any person who has witnessed the crime, or any person who comes to know of the crime.

Since acid attack and throwing/ attempting to throw acid are cognizable offences under S. 326A and 326B respectively of the IPC, the police may arrest the accused without a warrant, where the police are of the opinion that the person is dangerous to be allowed to remain free. The person filing an FIR also has the right to get a free copy of the FIR.

Step 2: Police Investigation Starts

After the filing of the FIR, the police will investigate the complaint and submit a final report based on the investigation and witness statements. This investigation should be completed within a time span of 60 to 90 days, when the accused is in custody.1

Step 3: Filing Charge Sheet and Trial Begins

Upon investigation, if the police are of the opinion that there is sufficient evidence of the crime being committed by the accused, they can file a charge sheet with a competent criminal court, requesting it to take notice of the case. This commences the trial process. If there is inadequate evidence, a closure report can be filed with the Magistrate to close the case. However, this may be challenged. Please take the help of a lawyer in the relevant district court for the trial process.

  1. Section 167, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.[]

What are the complaint forums/helplines?

[Trigger Warning: The following content contains information on physical violence which some readers may find disturbing.

If you are a survivor of acid attack, you can approach the following authorities:

Police

You can approach the police to make a complaint. You can get in touch with the police by dialing the helpline number 100. The police will record the information about the crime in the FIR (First Information Report).

National Commission for Women

The National Commission for Women (NCW) is a national-level government organization that is empowered to investigate complaints related to issues faced by women. The NCW will help you by:

  • Monitoring and expediting the investigations being led by the police.
  • Monitoring acid attack cases with regards to prosecution of the accused, providing medical relief to survivors and payment of compensation to survivors through the system. This is done through the use of the MIS system.1
  • Providing counselling or a hearing before the NCW. This is done to resolve disputes between the two parties.

You can get in touch with them by either calling the helpline number 1091, or sending an email to ncw@nic.in, or filing an online complaint. Further, you can also approach the State Commission of Women situated in your state, and ask them for help.

Sub-divisional Magistrate 

A person can also complain to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) of the district as they have a responsibility to ensure the guidelines for acid attack are followed. These guidelines include information on sale of acid and role of shopkeepers while selling acid. They can also levy fines on shopkeepers breaching the rules laid down by the Supreme Court.2

National Helplines

Some national helplines that you can contact are:

National Emergency Number (medical too) 112
Women Helpline (All India)- Women in Distress 1091
Women Helpline Domestic Abuse 181
Police 100
National Commission for Women 011-26942369, 26944754
ChildLine India Foundation Helpline 1098
National Human Rights Commission 011- 23385368/ 9810298900
  1. MIS for Assistance to Victims of Acid Attack, National Commission for Women, accessed at http://ncwapps.nic.in/MISforAcidAttackVictims/MonitoringAuthority/default.aspx.[]
  2. Laxmi v. Union of India and Others, (2016) 3 SCC 669.[]

How can you claim compensation under this law?

[Trigger Warning: The following content contains information on physical violence which some readers may find disturbing.

To seek compensation under the Victims Compensation Scheme,1 the procedure is:

Step 1: Filing an FIR

The survivor or someone on their behalf has to mandatorily report the acid attack crime by filing an FIR.

Step 2: Sharing FIR copy to Legal Services Authority

The station house officer (“SHO”), Superintendent of Police (“SP”) or the Deputy Commissioner of Police (“DCP”) of a police station has to mandatorily share a hard or soft copy of the FIR with the SLSA or DLSA.

Step 3: Application for compensation

The survivor, her dependents or relatives, or the SHO of the area concerned to the SLSA or DLSA can file an application for the award of an interim or final award of compensation. The application must be submitted in the format given under the Victim Compensation Scheme as Form -I. It must be filed with a copy of the FIR or criminal complaint and, if available, a Medical Report or Death Certificate. Further, the applicant must submit a copy of the judgement/ recommendations of the court, if the trial is over.

Step 4: Preliminary Investigation by Legal Services Authority

The SLSA or DLSA then begins the preliminary verification of the facts of the attack for granting compensation.

Step 5: Getting Compensation

The amount of compensation will be given by the SLSA or DLSA by depositing it in a Bank in the joint or single name of the survivor or dependent(s). In case the survivor does not have any bank account, the DLSA would facilitate opening of a bank account in the name of the survivor. In case the survivor is a minor in a child care institution, the bank account will be opened with the Superintendent of the institution as Guardian. However, in case the survivor is a foreign national or a refugee, the compensation will be given through cash cards.

To learn more on information on schemes in different states for survivors of violence, contact details of one-stop centres, protection officers and helpline numbers, check out the Nyaaya Map on Key Information for Survivors of Violence.

  1. Compensation Scheme for Women Victims/Survivors of Sexual Assault/other Crimes 2018, National Legal Services Authority, accessed at https://wcd.nic.in/sites/default/files/Final%20VC%20Sheme_0.pdf.[]