The recent acid attack on a 17-year old girl in Delhi has once again sparked outrage about violence against women in our county. The police have arrested three men as alleged attackers. They have also issued a notice to Flipkart, as the men allegedly bought the acid online from the platform. In this context, let us understand what rights and remedies acid attack survivors have under the law.
What is an acid attack?
An acid attack is the crime of hurting a person by throwing acid on them, administering acid to them or doing anything with acid with the intention or knowledge that it would harm the person.
An acid attack can result in injuries to a person, in any part of the body, including:
- 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.
What rights do acid attack survivors have 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, stating that:
- No hospital or clinic can refuse to treat acid attack survivors citing the lack of specialised facilities.
- Government and private hospitals have to provide survivors with first-aid and medical treatment free of cost.
The state governments are responsible for the treatment and rehabilitation of survivors and for taking action against hospitals that refuse to treat acid attack survivors.
Learn more about how survivors can seek medical treatment here.
Right to File a Complaint
Acid attack survivors or their relatives, friends or acquaintances, or any person who has witnessed the crime, or any person who comes to know of the crime can file a complaint against the perpetrator.
Right to Compensation
Acid attack survivors have the right to seek compensation from the state government. The Supreme Court approved the Victims Compensation Scheme in 2018. It provides for mandatory compensation for survivors of acid attacks (which should be a minimum of Rs. 3 lakh). Apart from compensation under this scheme, the survivor receives the fine amount that the perpetrator has to pay, as the Court directs.
Why did the police issue a notice to Flipkart?
State governments regulate the sale of acid through rules framed under Section 2 of the Poisons Act, 1919. These rules are broadly similar, and prescribe various requirements for shopkeepers selling acid, such as:
- Shopkeepers need a license to sell acid, or keep the same for sale.
- If their license becomes invalid, they must sell the acid off to another license holder within 3 months. After this period, the licensing authority has to remove and destroy it.
- Shopkeepers have to exhibit a copy of the sale of acid rules of that state at their place of business.
- They can only sell acid from the premises that have been specified in the license.
- They can only sell acid to persons personally known to them, or those who produce a photo identity card with their address and substantiate the same with a legally valid address proof.
- They have to note the name, phone number, address, and the purpose of buying acid of the purchaser in a register with the details of the sale, including the name of the acid, quantity sold etc.
- They must not sell acid to persons below 18 years of age.
- Shopkeepers must store acid securely in a box/ room etc., with the word ‘poison’ marking the same, and ensure that only acid is stored there.
The Government of India has also framed Model Rules (the Poisons Possession and Sale Rules, 2013) for states to refer to while framing their respective rules.
The Supreme Court gave guidelines about the sale of acid, to be followed in states which did not have state rules for sale of acid. Under these guidelines, the shopkeepers must follow the following regulations:
- They can only undertake over-the-counter sale of acid, if they maintain a register with the details of the buyer, their address, and the quantity sold.
- They must only sell acid after the buyer shows a government issued photo ID with the address of the person, and specifies their reason for buying the acid.
- They must declare their stocks of acid within 15 days to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) of the district.
- They must not sell acid to minors.
The police have issued a notice to Flipkart asking details about the order placed by the accused, and if Flipkart followed the law on sale of acid, they should be able to provide all the details and show a register maintaining the same.
To know more, read our explainer on Acid Attacks.