Throwing acid may attract life term

A six member Committee of Secretaries which examined the issue has recommended changes in the existing laws to classify acid attacks as a separate offence in the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The draft Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill prepared by a Committee of Secretaries headed by Home Secretary G K Pillai has recommended a jail term ranging from a minimum of 10 years up to a maximum of life imprisonment for those found guilty of acid attacks.

Others in the Committee include the Law Secretary, the Secretary Legislative Department (the senior-most government official responsible for drafting bills), Secretary Ministry of Women and Child Development and consultant (judicial) in the Home Ministry.

The draft bill has also proposed amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and the Indian Evidence Act based on demands made by the National Commission for Women and same NGOs who had been demanding changes in the existing laws, sources told PTI.

The committee has also proposed imposition of a Rs 10 lakh fine on the guilty, which would have to paid to the victim as compensation.

It has been recommended that two new clauses be added to section 326 of the IPC which deals with grievous hurt caused by "dangerous weapons or means" to separately identify acid attacks.

The committee has proposed addition of clauses A and B to section 326. The proposed clause A would prescribe the punishment for the intentional act of throwing acid to cause burns, disfiguring of the body and disabling any part of the body.

Clause B would deal with any 'failed attempt' to carry out the offence where the the intention of the accused was to cause maximum harm is proved. Those guilty of such an attempt would face a jail term ranging from five to 10 years.

The draft bill would require the nod of the Union Cabinet before it is introduced in Parliament.

The Supreme Court had repeatedly expressed its concern on the issue. In 2008, the Supreme Court had asked the Law Commission to examine the issue, during the hearing of an acid attack victim, Lakshmi, whose jilted lover had thrown acid on her face and body, severely disfiguring the woman.

The Law Commission in 2009, submitted its report to the Supreme Court recommending making acid attacks a clearly defined offence under the IPC.

"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 of marriage, for denying dowry etc.

"The attacker cannot bear the fact that he has been rejected and seeks to destroy the body of the woman who has dared to stand up to him," the Commission said in its report number 226 submitted to the Law Ministry.

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