13 Oct 2022 1:47 PM GMT
The Delhi High Court has said that the word 'acid' in Section 326A of the Indian Penal Code is not merely restricted to the substances which are classically or scientifically termed as acids but also includes all those substances which have an acidic, corrosive or burning nature and are capable of causing disfigurement, or temporary or permanent disability.Section 326A of the Code provides...
The Delhi High Court has said that the word 'acid' in Section 326A of the Indian Penal Code is not merely restricted to the substances which are classically or scientifically termed as acids but also includes all those substances which have an acidic, corrosive or burning nature and are capable of causing disfigurement, or temporary or permanent disability.
Section 326A of the Code provides the punishment for acid attack. It states that whoever causes permanent or partial damage, disfigures or disables any part of the body of a person or causes grievous hurt by throwing acid shall be punished with imprisonment of a term not less than ten years, which may extend to imprisonment for life, and with fine.
A division of Justice Mukta Gupta and Justice Anish Dayal explained the provision in its decision on the appeals filed by three men convicted under Section 326A and 34 of the Code for throwing acid on a woman in 2014. The prosecution has been able to prove the guilt of the appellant beyond reasonable doubt, said the bench while upholding the trial court decision.
The counsel representing the convicts had argued that neither the alleged substance was sent for examination to ascertain the kind of acid it was nor were the clothes of the victim seized for further investigation. The prosecution was unable to prove that the alleged substance was acid, Senior Advocate Mahabir Singh argued.
However, the court termed the contention misplaced and observed that Section 326A covers a situation where partial or permanent damage to a person's body "can not only be caused by an acid but by 'any other means'."
While referring to Section 326B, the court said Explanation 1 in the provision has provided meaning to the word 'acid' used in Section 326A.
"'Acid', as per the said Explanation, includes any substance which has acidic or corrosive character of burning nature capable of causing bodily injury leading to scarce or disfigurement or temporary or permanent disability. Therefore by this provision, it is quite evident that the legislature has included in the meaning of "acid" two clear and categorical aspects: first, any substance with an acidic/corrosive/burning nature; and second, that it has the capability of causing bodily injury leading to scars or disfigurement or temporary or permanent disability," said the court.
It added: "This is notwithstanding the fact that by including "any other means", the legislature has intended to apply Section 326A to a larger set of substances/methods which may cause such injuries to the person."
The appellants before the court had challenged the December 2019 decision of the trial court. While two of them were sentenced to rigorous life imprisonment and a fine of Rs.1 lakh each, the third accused was awarded rigorous imprisonment of 10 years and fine of Rs. 50,000.
The trial court had ordered the victim will be paid an amount of Rs.1.25 lakhs as compensation out of the total fine.
Dismissing the appeals, the court said since the incident happened at railway lines and the appellants ran away afterwards, the question of recovering any part of the substance and to examine it did not arise.
"There would be no substantive residue lying there of the substance for the police to recover and examine. In any event, the nature of the substance is clearly of acidic/corrosive/burning nature as is evident from the medical testimonies of the doctors who examined the victim then and in subsequent years," the bench said.
The court was also of the view that the fact that victim's burnt clothes were not recovered and seized by the police was not a factor which could dilute the foundational fact that such an injury was not possible to be self-inflicted by any individual on himself or herself.
It also said that it is impossible to accept that any person would go through tremendous pain and intense medical process just in order to implicate somebody falsely for an assault.
However, on the aspect of the compensation, the bench directed that the full amount of fine be paid to the victim. The court also said she is entitled to a total compensation of at least Rs 5 Lakhs.
"Depending on what is finally paid as fine by the appellants and compensation received by the victim, this Court directs that the balance amount (out of total compensation of Rs. 5,00,000/-) be paid to the victim under Uttar Pradesh Victim Compensation Scheme, 2014 (as amended from time to time by the Government of Uttar Pradesh). Accordingly, a copy of this judgment be sent to the Secretary, State Legal Services Authority, Uttar Pradesh for information and necessary action," the court ordered.
The Supreme Court in September 2015 had transferred the case from Mathura to Delhi after a petition was filed by the complainant.
Title: HAKIM & ANR v. STATE (NCT OF DELHI) and other connected matter
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 962
Click Here To Read Order