The Supreme Court of India on 9 July 2013 directed the Union Government of India to formulate a policy to regulate/ban Retail Sale of Acid across the country. The decision of the Court came in wake-up of the acid attacks in the different parts of the country. Earlier, on 16 April 2013, the Apex Court gave its orders to the Governments at Center, States and Union Territories to come up with an affidavit on the draft scheme, to restrict the retail sale of acid across the country.
The Supreme Court Bench of Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya said to the Additional Solicitor General, Indira Jaising that despite of orders given by the Court to the Governments at Center, State and Union Territories, no affidavit on the scheme to restrict the retail sale of acid has been submitted in past 11 weeks, since 16 April 2013. The Supreme Court also said, that “this court may consider the suggestion of counsel for the petitioner [Aparna Bhat] to ban retail sale completely at the next hearing on July 16.”
The Supreme Court identified easy availability of acid at counters across the country as one of the basic reasons behind the attacks (comment of Justice Lodha). For past seven years the issue is lying pending in the Supreme Courts. But none of the Governments from centre/state/UTs was successful in addressing to the issue.
The Court cited the example of Preeti, the girl who recently died in Mumbai due to acid attack. The court has given a week’s time to the Government to come-up with a framework of rules to prevent acid from being sold in retail.
Law in existence to Curb Acid Attacks
The Criminal Law (Amendment Ordinance 2013) that has received Presidential assent has mentioned acid attack a specific offence, providing a maximum punishment of life sentence, under Sections 326A and 326B of Indian Penal Code.
After section 326 of the Penal Code, the following sections shall be inserted, namely: –– Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid, etc.
Section 326A - Whoever causes permanent or partial damage or deformity to, or burns or maims or disfigures or disables, any part or parts of the body of a person or causes grievous hurt by throwing acid on or by administering acid to that person, or by using any other means with the intention of causing or with the knowledge that he is likely to cause such injury or hurt, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than ten years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees: provided that any fine imposed under this section shall be given to the person on whom acid was thrown or to whom acid was administered.
Section 326B - Whoever throws or attempts to throw acid on any person or attempts to administer acid to any person, or attempts to use any other means, with the intention of causing permanent or partial damage or deformity or burns or maiming or disfigurement or disability or grievous hurt to that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than five years but which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Comment: Acid violence is the practice of throwing acid on somebody, with an intention of killing or disfiguring the target. The practice is prevalent in most of the countries across the world, but the countries that have been the centre of such attacks are India, Pakistan, Cambodia and Afghanistan.
Acid violence - throwing acid with the intention to maim, disfigure or even kill the target - occurs in many countries but is most common in Cambodia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India where male domination of social structures persists. Over 1000 acid attacks takes place every year across the world.