A legislative emergency

  • Following the recent acid attack in Basantapur, stronger and more specific legislation is needed
- POST REPORT, BINAYAK BASNYAT, Kathmandu
A legislative emergency

Mar 19, 2015-

Within larger regional cooperation, negative externalities that might spill over from one country to another are counteracted, while positive spillovers are encouraged. The recent acid attack in Kathmandu has flared up as an issue of a negative externality spillover from a region where acid attacks are rampant. Such heinous acts are unacceptable and cross all lines of humanity on moral, gender, and legal grounds. The attack has since spurred public rallies and movements in Kathmandu, decrying the attack and calling for investigation and prosecution of the culprits.

Legalese in Nepal

However, Nepal has no specific laws that address acid attacks. The law that seems most applicable here is Chapter 9 of the Muluki Ain, which deals with hurt/battery. This chapter too does not address acid attacks specifically, but nonetheless, it is the only chapter that seems most relevant in relation to existing laws.

The chapter states“…if any person causes bloodshed, wound, injury, grievous hurt or causes any pain or harm to the body of another person, the person shall be deemed to have committed the offence of hurt/battery…” It is important to note here that any action that causes loss of eyesight or blindness, loss of smell or deafness, damage to speaking abilities, damage to a woman’s breasts or the reproductive capacity of a man, damage to the vertebra, hands, legs, or joints, or fractures, destruction, and dislocation are considered grievous hurt by law. In the event of grievous hurt, the Muluki Ain provides for even abettors, conspirators, and accomplices, in addition to the principle perpetrator(s) of the crime, liable for punishment.

Furthermore, Article 5 of this chapter provides that if any person pursues any act knowing the consequence of harm it might cause the other, such a person is liable as per the harm or injury inflicted. Except in a circumstance where the victim dies, the perpetrator can be punished for a maximum of eight years imprisonment and a fine. However, if the victim dies within 21 days of the incident, it would be assumed that the victim died from the act and the punishment depends upon the intention of the perpetrator.

In the neighbourhood

Neighbouring India, where acid attacks are a serious issue, also lacks specific legislation. Cases of acid attacks are covered under Sections 320, 322, 325, and 326 of the Indian Penal Code. Specifically, Section 326 (A) (i) of the Indian Penal Code criminalises acid throwing and as per the provision, punishment is no less than 10 years of imprisonment extending to life in prison. It also provides for the perpetrator to be fined upto Rs 1 million and for that fine to be provided to the victim. It should be noted that Indian law considers an acid attack a means of grievous hurt.

In Bangladesh, widespread prevalence of acid attack led to the promulgation of the Acid Offence Prevention Act 2002 and the Acid Control Act 2002. The Acts were promulgated so as to control and punish acid attacks and to a certain extent, it has been quite successful. The Acts provide not only for the principle offender but also the abettor and the accomplice, if any, to be imposed the same punishment, which

can range from seven years in prison

to capital punishment, along with a fine and compensation for the victim. The Control Act provides for punishment for those involved in the unlicenced production, import, transportation, hoarding, sale,

or use of acids.

Further east, in Cambodia, the Cambodian Acid Law 2011 was promulgated specifically in order to deal with this crime. Under the law, ‘concentrated acid’ includes “acid raw material and substance containing acid in any form whether in liquid form or solid form and containing pH equal or less than 3 that cause damage on health and life of another person”. This acid law differentiates between intentional killing, unintentional killing, torture, and cruel acts, intentional injury, and unintentional injury through the use of concentrated acid. Intentional killing is punishable with 15 to 30 years in prison. Life imprisonment may be imposed if the attack was premeditated or the acid had been used to torture before or at the time of the killing. Where concentrated acid is used for torture and cruel acts, the sentence can range from 10 to 20 years in prison. This punishment can be increased to 15 to 25 years if the act causes disability, and 20 to 30 years if it leads to the unintentional death of the victim or causes the victim to commit suicide.

Regulate and control

Following the recent attacks on Sangita Magar and Sima Basnet, two school girls who were attacked by an unidentified person during tuition in Basantapur, there has been much fear and anger in the public. It is important to note that this is not a new crime for Nepal. There have already been a number of acid-related attacks till date. The cases of Akriti Rai from Biratnagar, Sadina Khatun from Biratnagar, Rita Devi Mahato and Punam Kumari Sabariya from Sunsari and Palsi Devi Yadav and Janaki Debi Yadav are some cases that have come to light. The perpetrators in some of these cases were either charged with attempted murder or hurt. In others, the attack

was deemed an accident and some of the perpetrators were not even charged.

Even if they were charged, due to the lack of specific legislation, there were problems in prosecution.

Furthermore, despite the life threatening capacity of acid attacks, it is very easy to find such corrosive substances in the market. There are no regulatory laws governing or regulating the sale of such substances.

The Government of Nepal is expected to not only take up the issue to enforce a stronger and more specific legislation dealing with acid attacks, but to also project a good example for the rest of the region where acid attacks are rampant.

Basnyat is affiliated with the Saarc Secretariat and Rajbhandari an advocate

Published: 20-03-2015 09:53

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