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SC orders curb on acid sales

Editorial Team |

Press Trust of India
NEW DELHI, 18 JULY: The Supreme Court today directed states and Union Territories to frame rules to regulate sale of acids and other corrosive substances within three months and make acid attack a non-bailable offence.
The court also directed that acid attack victims shall be paid a compensation of at least Rs three lakh by the state government concerned as an after-care and rehabilitation cost for such victims.
A Bench headed by Mr Justice R M Lodha said that the states and UTs, which have not regulated acid sale, to issue guidelines based on the model draft rules framed by the central government.
“The Chief Secretaries of respective states and administrators of each Union Territory shall ensure compliance of this order expeditiously and frame rules within three months after receiving the model draft rules from the central government,” it said.
The Bench also asked the central and state governments to work together and make the necessary rules under the Poison Act, 1919 for making acid attack a non-bailable offence.
The Bench, which is hearing a PIL filed in 2006 by Delhi-based acid attack victim Laxmi who was then a minor, also passed a slew of interim directions on various issues including sale of acids.
Perusing the compensation schemes of 17 states and seven UTs, the Bench observed that the amount which is being paid is “grossly inadequate”.
“It cannot be overlooked that acid attack victims need to undergo a series of plastic surgeries and other corrective treatment. Having regard to this, the Solicitor General suggested to us that the compensation amount to be paid by states to acid attack victims must be enhanced to at least Rs three lakh.
“The suggestion is very fair. We accordingly direct that the acid attack victims shall be paid a compensation of at least Rs three lakh by the state government concerned as an after-care and rehabilitation cost for such victims,” the court said. 
The court also said that out of the compensation amount of Rs three lakh, Rs one lakh will be paid within 15 days of the occurrence of the attack being brought to the notice of the state government.
“The balance of Rs two lakh shall be paid by the state or Union Territory concerned as expeditiously as possible and positively within two months of the incident,” it said, adding that the compliance of the order has to be ensured by the chief secretaries of the states and administrators of the UTs respectively.
The Bench, in its interim directions, said that the licenced seller of acids and corrosive substances will have to maintain a log/register pertaining to the sale of such material.
It said that the register shall contain the addresses of the persons to whom such substances have been sold.
Photo identity card, containing residential address, issued by the authorities would be required for purchasing such substances which in any case cannot be sold to a person who is below the age of 18 years, the court said.
It also said that sellers will have to disclose their stock to the authorities concerned, otherwise the undeclared stock would be confiscated and “a suitable fine of upto Rs 50,000 shall be imposed on such sellers”.
However, the court said that educational institutes, research laboratories, hospitals, government departments and public sector undertakings could acquire in bulk acids and corrosive substances by following certain guidelines.
“All such institutions/departments shall maintain a register regarding such substances and file the same with the sub-divisional magistrate concerned,” it said, adding that a person of that institute/department shall be made accountable for the custody of such substances.
The court also made it clear that there shall be compulsory checking of student/personnel who have been allowed access to such places. 
During the hearing, Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran said that the states of Punjab, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Haryana, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya have already framed rules to regulate the sale of acids and corrosive substances.
On 16 July, the Centre had told the apex court that in view of growing incidents of acid attacks, it has framed the Poisons Possession and Sale Rules, 2013, under the existing Poison Act, 1919, to regulate retail sale of acid and other poisonous substances.
Taking note of the rules, the court had asked the Centre to send the regulations to the states and UTs for their approval and issuance of notifications.
It had also said it may not consider banning the sale of acid in retail if the proposed rules and regulations are enforced.
Earlier, the apex court had slammed the Centre for not being “serious” about framing a policy to curb the sale of acids in order to prevent attacks.
In her petition, Laxmi, whose arms, face and other body parts had suffered disfiguration in the 2005 acid attack, had sought framing of a new law or amendment to the existing criminal laws like Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act and Criminal Procedure Code for dealing with the offence, besides asking for compensation.
Laxmi had been attacked by three youths near Tughlaq Road here as she had refused to marry one of them, according to the petition. The trial is going on for the offence of attempt to murder and two of the accused are out on bail.