Dismayed by increasing instances of acid attacks, especially on women, the Law Commission of India has suggested sentencing up to life term to combat the problem.
At present the offence is covered by Section 326 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with grievous hurt.
But in a note to the Supreme Court of India, the Law Commission contends that the definition of grievous hurt is not broad enough to cover various kinds of injuries which are inflicted during acid attacks; the Section does not cover the act of administering acid attack; the Section gives a wide discretion to the courts as far as punishment is concerned.
In the circumstances, it has suggested introduction of a new section, 326-A, and prescription of punishments ranging from ten years to a life term.
The note said: "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 for marriage, for denying dowry, etc."
It said: "Acid throwing is an extremely violent crime by which the perpetrator of the crime seeks to inflict severe physical and mental suffering on the victim.
"This kind of violence is often motivated by deep-seated jealousy or feelings of revenge against a woman. Acid is usually thrown at the victim's face as the perpetrator wants to disfigure the victim.
"An acid attack has long-lasting consequences on the life of the victim who faces perpetual torture, permanent damage and other problems for the rest of her life." The Commission said "distribution and sale of acid should be banned except for commercial and scientific purposes. Acid should be made a scheduled banned chemical, which should not be available over the counter."
The Commission also recommended enactment of a law known as 'Criminal Injuries Compensation Act' to provide both interim and final monetary compensation to victims of rape, sexual assault, acid attacks, taking into account the loss of earnings a person might suffer apart from the medical expenses themselves.