Laxmi vs. Union of India and Others

Laxmi vs. Union of India and Others
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About the author:
Poorva Pandey is a law student in Symbiosis Law School, Pune.

Jurisdiction:                   In The Supreme Court of India

Case Name:                   Laxmi vs. Union of India and Others

Petitioner:                      Laxmi

Respondent:                   Union of India

Bench:                           Justice Madan B. Lokur; Justice Uday Umesh Lalit

Date of Judgement:       10th April 2015

Citation:                         2014 SCC (4) 427

INTRODUCTION

Laxmi, an acid attack survivor, filed a PIL against the Union of India and others, which led the publication of recommendations for the welfare of acid attack survivors. It was ordered by the Supreme Court that Acid sales be restricted and that victims be compensated. Prior to the introduction of the new classification system, acid attacks were categorized as “grievous hurt” crimes.

According to the recommendations made by the Justice J.S. Verma committee following a gang rape and murder in 2012, acid violence is now a distinct crime punishable by life imprisonment and a fine under the criminal amendment Act of 2013. No such prohibition existed prior to this Supreme Court decision, and the compensation offered by the government was insufficient. A victim of an acid attack suffers the long-term effects of the attack, including torture that never ends, irreversible damage, and other difficulties. The trauma that survivors suffers while leaving their homes or carry out ordinary activities effect their daily course of life.

The looks and impairments they have after an attack may prevent them from being treated as regular human beings, even if they are eager to do so. If the state wants to reduce the number of acid assaults on women, it needs to punish those who commit them with regret. As a result, in case of Laxmi, a number of acid assaults were brought to light.

ISSUE RAISED

The issue raised under the Public Interest Litigation filed in the year 2013 are as follows:

  1. Relevant amendments to be made under statutes such as Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act concerning the criminal justice system recognising acid attack as a separate offence and stringent punishment to be imposed on the culprit of the acid attack.
  2. Framing the regulations for the ban on the sale and purchase of acid.
  3. Framing the new compensation and rehabilitation scheme for the victims of the acid attack.

FACTS OF THE CASE

  • In the year 2005, Laxmi was attacked on the busy street of the New Delhi with an acid at the age of 15 years by her neighbour and his sister-in-law. The incident was an outcome for the refusal of marriage that Laxmi made to the culprit Naeem Khan (Guddu) who was accompanied by Rakhi (sister-in-law of Guddu) in the brutal incident.
  • Both the accused were held under Indian Penal Code by the Sessions Court of Delhi under:
  • Section 307-    Attempt to Murder
  • Section 120B- Punishment for criminal conspiracy
  • An appeal was filed by the accused in the Delhi High Court, challenging the decision made by the Sessions court. The High Court of Delhi upheld the decision and imposed additional fine of rupees three lakh for the compensation to the victim under Section 357(1)(b) of Code of Criminal Procedure.

In the year 2013, Laxmi filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court of India with the purpose for demanding complete ban on the sale of acid, stricter laws against acid attack and new compensation scheme to the victims of the acid attack by stating the pain that victim and the family goes through along with medical expenses.

ARGUMENT BY THE PETITIONER

  • Easy sale and purchase of acid in the market was the questioned.
  • The impact of acid attack physically, mentally, emotionally and financially on the victim and family.
  • The rehabilitation by the government of the acid attack victims was requested.
  • The petitioner prayed for the stringent punishment and the amendment in the statutes relating to criminal justice system specifying the provision for the acid attacks.
  • The petitioner also requested for the free treatment and the fixed amount of compensation to the victim of the acid attack.

ARGUMENT BY THE RESPONDENT

  • The enforcement of the model rule by the central government was stated by the learned solicitor general. The sale of acid and other corrosive substances mentioned under the Poison Act, 1919 would be regulated in the market by the enforcement of the model rule in the respective states and the Union Territories.
  • The counsel also mentioned that the model rule included the type and form of acid that can be stored, sold and given license for.
  • The counsel from the state of Tamil Nadu mentioned that proper and strict laws will be regularised to keep a check on sale of acid and other corrosive substances.
  • The government assured that offences will be made cognizable and non bailable under the Poison Act,1919.

DECISION

  • This led to several amendments in the statutes relating to criminal justice system:
  • Section 326 of Indian Penal Code was amended by the insertion of section 326A[1] and section 326B[2] which specifically stated about the offence of the acid attack.
  • Section 357A states about the victim compensation scheme,with an insertion of section 357B[3] the Code of Criminal Procedure,1973 is modified which ensured compensation to the victim in addition to the fine under section 326A and 376D of IPC.
  • Also in the Indian Evidence Act Section 114B was inserted which stated about the intention and knowledge that culprit likely to have under section 326A of IPC.
  • The Victim Compensation scheme was notified by the government stating that the victim is entitled to the compensation of minimum three lakh rupee, also made a uniform approach for the payment of the compensation. It was emphasised that no hospitals including the private hospitals can deny the treatment to the victim. In case of lack of the equipment in the hospitals the primary treatment should be ensured to the victim and later the victim shall be shifted to the concerned hospital.
  • The ban on the sale and purchase of the acid.
  • Legal service authority was also initiated under the Victim Compensation Scheme which would assist the victim in procuring the justice.

ANALYSIS

The decision of the case made impeccable changes in the society with the adoption of the stringent laws and also suggestions under the victim’s compensation scheme with the amendments in the specific statutes pertaining to the criminal justice system. The consequence of the PIL filed led to the passing of various other guidelines for the betterment of the acid attack survivors.  After the study it was found that the state of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh had the highest rate of acid attack cases. Delhi was the only Union Territory with the cases of acid attack.

Prior to Criminal Amendment 2013

Analysing the situation before 2013 Criminal Amendment Act, the justice for victims of acid attack were half hearted. There was no fixed compensation for the victims and the section 326 of IPC was ineffective in providing the justice to the victim as there was no mentioning of offence of acid attack. The culprits were charged under section 320,322,325,307 and 326 of the IPC. The 226th Law commission report[4] made recommendations for the inclusion of the section 326A as a separate provisions under IPC pertaining to the offence of the acid attack also section 114B under the Indian Evidence Act. The commission stated the facts and circumstances where muscularity tends to suppress the women to satisfy the male ego.

The commission also suggested for the incorporation of Criminal Injuries Compensation Act for providing monetary assistance to the victims of various offences such as rape, sexual assault, acid attack and so on in order to bare the loss.

The acid attack causes permanent disfiguring of the body therefore, it has larger impact on one’s life being it physically, emotionally, psychologically, financially and also in society. The judges in the cases of acid attack initially bewildered in deciding the case under the criminal law or tort law. But seeing the impact and nature of the wrong the decision was made under the criminal law. The confusion was due to the non-existence of specific laws relating to the acid attack.

The recourse was completely endowed to the judiciary. The culprit was charged under section 307 of IPC i.e. attempt to murder and section 302 of IPC i.e. punishment for murder only when victim died. The bestowing of the compensation was on the discretion of the judiciary. Therefore, the complete justice was never severed in the acid attack cases prior to the 2013 amendment.

Bodhisattwa Gautam vs. Shubhra Chakrobarty[5] case the Supreme court granted the interim compensation to the victim. This again highlighted the need for the better compensation scheme for the victims nationwide.

Ramesh Dey and Others v. State of West Bengal[6] case accused in his second attempt succeeded in the acid attack to the victim in order to take revenge. The victim died due to the extensive burns. The accused was charged with life imprisonment and fine of rupees 5000 under section 302 and 34 of IPC respectively. The appellants were also given rigorous imprisonment of one year and fine of rupee 1000 each under section324 and 34 of IPC respectively.

Therefore, it can easily be assessed that there was no uniformity in the punishment granted. The punishment was solely based on the discretion of the judges and hence, need for the stringent and specific law was need of an hour.

The National Commission for Women presented a bill named Prevention of Offences (Acid) Bill, 2008 suggesting for the establishment of the National Acid Attack Victim Assistance Board providing medical and psychological assistance to the victim. The bill also recommended for the fund by the center and state government both and the board would also initiate the interim relief of rupee 1,00,000 within the period of thirty days directly to the hospital.

After Criminal Amendment 2013

With the enforcement of the amendment Act the purpose of the uniformity in the delivery of the justice is achieved. The specific statues pertaining to the criminal justice system have been amended specifying the offence of the acid attack in a separate provision. The amendment under IPC has led to the insertion of section 326A stating voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid etc. punishing the culprit for a period of not less than 10 years which may extent to life imprisonment along with the fine and section 326B stating voluntarily throwing or attempt to throw acid etc. providing punishment for a period of five to seven years along with fine, the amendment is also made under the procedural code and Indian Evidence Act by inserting 114B.

The Laxmi case became the landmark as judiciary directed ban on sale and purchase of acid also initiates the fixed compensation to the acid attack victims which is of minimum rupees three lakh provided by the concerned government. The regulations were also made directing the hospitals including the private sectors that the treatment to the acid attack victims cannot be refused at any terms. In case hospital lacks proper equipment for the treatment of acid attack victim, the hospital shall provide the first aid to the victim and then shift the victim to the concerned hospital.

Parivartan Kendra v. Union of India[7], the Supreme court stated that the government can provide compensation more than rupees three lakh. There is no need to setup separate Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.

State of Maharashtra v. Ankur Panwar[8], even after the ban on the sale and purchase of the of acid culprit managed to get and commit an offence by throwing acid on a women who refused to marry him and chosed her career. In this case the culprit was punished with capital punishment.

The establishment of legal services to the victims of acid attack NALSA Scheme, 2016 which shall help in providing the legal assistance to the victim at every level. It would also assist in providing medical and rehabilitation facility to the victim. The body would also look forward for issuing new scheme by determine the flaws and gap in the existing one.

The Prevention of Acid Attack and Rehabilitation of Acid Attack Victims Bill, 2017 was introduced in order to keep a check on the regulation of the acid and type of acid to be regulated. Also in case of non-compliance with the section 3 and section 4 of the Bill the concerned shall be punished with the simple imprisonment extending to six month or fine of rupees five lakh or both. Similarly, it also increased the fine under section 326A of IPC upto rupees ten lakhs and under section 326B the punishment is the imprisonment of ten years with fine of three lakh rupees. The victims would be provided assistance in rehabilitating themselves by getting the monthly allowances from the government.

The amendment Act has achieved the uniformity but the case of acid attack still seems to exist.  There were approximately According to the report of National Crime Record Bureau from 1500 cases of acid attack in India. Recently there was an acid attack case in Uttar Pradesh on the couple. The need is the strict regulation and control which seems to be lacking but comparatively the number of cases have decreased.

Comparative Jurisprudence

The jurisprudence of the victimology always debates on the liability of the state in procuring justice to the victim. The acid attack is the global issue which is recognised by the United Nation’s body UNICEF which states that the acid attack is the serious offence that society is dealing with. Disfiguring one’s body effect the individual and the society mentally, emotionally and psychologically. It creates the sense of fear among the innocents. The UN also adopted the convention in 1979 to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women. The cases of acid attack are majorily against the women which indicates the gender inequality and discrimination against women in the society. 

The first ever case of acid attack was recorded in Bangladesh in 1967 at that time it was east Pakistan. The country functions under the statute The Acid Offences Prevention Act and Acid Control Act where the culprit is charged with rigorous imprisonment for life and fine of one lakh Takka in case of death or complete or partial mutilation of the face or sexual organ of the victim. It provides that the investigation shall be finished within the time span of sixty days failing to which action would be taken against the investigating officer. The trial in cases of acid attack shall be completed within ninety days.

Cambodia recently have adopted laws with respect to acid attack which charges perpetrator for fifteen to thirty year in case of death of the victim and fifteen to twenty-five year in case of permanent disfiguring of the body part. The government is also instructed to provide medical care, legal support and protection to the victim.

Uganda has a Penal Code which provide death sentence to the culprit indulge in such offences and it is a non- bailable offence. But the criminal justice system of the Uganda lacks the implementation of the effective law which is the reason for the increased crime rate in the Uganda specially the cases of acid attack.

Similarly, every nation worldwide has adopted provisions and stringent laws for curbing the issue of acid attack which disfigures the person and gives a permanent mark leading to mental, psychological and emotional harassment.

CONCLUSION

The Laxmi vs. Union of India and ors.[9] is a case which has set a benchmark in the society from awareness to the enforcement of stringent laws. The idea behind is the protection of female from the egoist male chauvinist who in order to satisfy themselves can lead to an extent of disfiguring a person. The Criminal Amendment Act,2013 bought a positive change in the society by identifying the acid attack as a heinous offence and imposing a responsibility on the center and state government for the rehabilitation of the victims.

The concept of free medical aid imposed by the judiciary showed the very concern and empathy towards the victim and her family. The only concern is the effective mechanism by the authority in order to curb the offence of acid attack which need a regular check by the authority on the sale and purchase of the acid.

The judiciary plays a crucial role in determining the odds in the society and therefore amending the statutes for identifying acid attack as severe offence states the responsible and concerned judiciary. Moreover, in this case the fixed compensation and uniformity in the delivery of justice was achieved.

The society at large is also responsible for the commitment of such offences therefore, it is necessary for each and every person to understand the idea of equality, individuality and humanity. 

REFERENCES

  1. http://uphome.gov.in/writereaddata/Portal/Images/pdf/129-of-2016-10-4-2015.pdf
  2. https://www.iitk.ac.in/wc/data/TheCriminalLaw.pdf
  3. Dipa Dube, Victim Compensation Schemes in India: An Analysis, International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences Vol 13 Issue 2 July – December 2018
  4. https://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/report226.pdf

[1]  Ins. by Act 13 of 2013, s. 5 (w.e.f. 3-2-2013)

[2]  Ins. by Act 13 of 2013, s. 5 (w.e.f. 3-2-2013)

[3] Ins. by Act 13 of 2013, s. 23 (w.e.f. 3-2-2013)

[4] 226th Report, Law Commission of India, Proposal for the Inclusion of Acid Attacks as Specific Offences in the Indian Penal Code and a Law for Compensation for Victims of Crime 7 (July 2009).

[5] AIR 1996 SCC 922

[6] 2007(3) CHN 775

[7] 2015 (13) SCALE 325

[8] 2009 SCC OnLine Bom 968

[9] 2014 SCC (4) 427

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