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SC notice to states on plea to ban free sale of acid

The SC sought a response from state governments and UTs on the possibility of banning free sale of acid.

Written by Agencies | New Delhi |
October 30, 2009 6:37:39 pm

The Supreme Court on Friday sought a response from state governments and union territories on the possibility of banning free sale of acid in view of growing instances of it being used as a weapon of offence,particulary against women.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan issued notices to all state governments and UTs as it was informed that they have expressed reservations against a total ban on sale of acid.

The court had during the last last hearing on September 30 ruled out ordering a total ban on free sale of acid but favored a restrictive and permissible sale depending on the stand of state governments.

“The issue falls in the state subject. Unless state governments co-operate,little could be done,” the Bench had said asking the petitioner’s counsel to implead state governments in the matter.

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Additional Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran said the idea of a complete ban on free sale of acid has not found favour with state governments.

The issue of banning free sale of acid came up during the hearing of a PIL filed in 2006 by a Delhi-based minor girl Laxmi whose arms,face and other body parts were disfigured in an acid attack.

Advocate Aparna Bhat,who has taken up the case of Lakshmi,had told the court that the girl has now become an adult and is still undergoing treatment which has so far entailed a cost of Rs seven lakh.

Bhat,who is pressing for a complete ban on free sale of acid since 2006,alleged the Centre has not done anything even as the number of acid attacks increased manifold.

She said now the roadblocks have come from state governments without realising that in the last four months there have been many incidents in which young girls became victim of acid attacks.

“The Centre is not taking corrective steps,” she had charged.

The advocate has maintained that she was not against sale of acid to the industry but favoured its ban in retail market.

She had submitted that in the past,the apex court had banned sale of egg in religious places and use of plastic bags.

The Centre had on July 6 indicated it was considering regulating free sale of the corrosive substance after the apex court favoured a similar action.

The Centre,which till March this year had failed to come up with a clear stand of making acid attack a “serious offence” and curbing the sale of acid,later said the government was working on the issue.

“There will be some positive development,” Parasaran had assured the court.

He had said Home Minister P Chidambaram has taken up the issue on a priority basis and “something can be done on it”.

The Centre,which was also asked to consider a law similar to the one in Bangladesh to regulate and restrict the sale of acid to check its use as a weapon,had said such a step would not be practical and it would lead to “inspector Raj”.

“As regards banning free sale of acid,the state governments’ representatives were almost unanimous against the proposed ban for the reason that the same is not practical since acid is needed for many purposes in and around the household.

“Similarly,licensing the sale of acid was also opposed on the grounds that it could lead to inspector Raj,” the Centre had said in its reply to the suggestion.

Laxmi,through her counsel Aparna Bhat,has sought framing of a new law or amendment in existing criminal laws like IPC,Indian Evidence Act and the CrPC for dealing with the offence and also sought a compensation which has not yet been provided.

Acid was thrown at the victim by three youths near Tughlaq Road here as she had refused to marry one of them.

The trial is going on for the offence of attempt to murder and two of the accused are out on bail.

The court,during an earlier hearing,had expressed displeasure over the reluctance of states to provide compensation to a victim of acid attack and had termed the act as “worse than murder”.

The court was told that the report of the Law Commission on the issue was supplied to all concerned parties and the National Commission for Women has placed a draft legislation to make acid attack a serious offence.

The Centre had said most state governments were “in favour of strengthening the provisions of IPC to take care of the offence of acid attack and attack by other corrosive materials as well as by hot water”.

The Centre had said that at the conference of Chief Secretaries of state governments and Union Territories it was suggested that IPC and Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) should be amended to deal with acid attack as a “special offence”.

Suggestions for adding a new section 326A to IPC after the existing section 326 (voluntary causing of grievous hurt by dangerous weapons) were also made”,it had said.

The National Commission for Women also proposed legislation to cover compensation for victims of acid attack and for a new provision in IPC making attempt to throw acid a serious offence punishable by not less than seven years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs one lakh.

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