Despite SC's ban, over-the-counter sale of acid still on rise

Laxmi, an acid attack victim.
Though the Supreme Court in 2013 directed the states to frame rules to regulate acid sale, it can still be easily purchased in many parts of our country. A recent report has revealed that nearly 59 per cent Delhiites regularly use acid for cleaning their toilets which is very harmful for their own health.

This move came from SC in order to curb acid attacks on women. The court had made it mandatory for retailers to have a license to sell acid, check the photo identification of the customer and keep a record of their name and address who buys it.

The rules also ban sale of acid to anyone under the age of 18. The implementation has been very slow in some parts of the city, but there is a progress.

From the past:

21-year-old Shabana Khatun from Kolkata was in love with a boy and wanted to marry him. In June 2013, she was invited to meet his family and seek permission for their marriage. But there she was force-fed one bottle of acid, resulting in severe internal injuries. It's been more than a year, while she is still in pain and the scars on her body are far from being healed, and her assailants are still scot-free.

59% Delhiites regularly buy acid

In yet another incident, 15-year-old Laxmi was attacked with acid by a spurned lover in 2005. She was attacked in broad daylight in the crowded Central Delhi area. The attack disfigured her face, ears, hands and chest and the doctors had to remove the entire skin from her face. Till now Laxmi has undergone 7 surgeries, and still need four more surgeries before she can go for a plastic surgery.

These are not the only two incidents; many more incidents have occurred in the past which has scarred the lives of many people leaving them in a beleaguered state.

What Supreme Court had ordered

The Supreme Court in response to a PIL filed by acid attack victim Laxmi seeking the regulation of the sale of acid said the following:

  • Acid sold in retail must be so diluted that it does not have any corrosive effect on humans.
  • Over-the-counter sale of acid is completely prohibited unless the seller maintains a log/register recording the details of the person(s) to whom acid (s) is/are sold, the quantity sold and shall contain the address of the person to whom it is sold. 
  • The court had also said that the violation of its directions "shall attract prosecution under the Poisons Act, 1919" and "the SDM shall be vested with the responsibility of fining the violators and initiating prosecution". 
  • Directing that no acid would be sold to any person below the age of 18 years,
  • Retail outlets having licence to sell acid will maintain a stock register and failing to do so or possessing unaccounted acid will lead to a fine of Rs 50,000, the court said. 
  • The SC has asked medical and educational institutions requiring acid in bulk to take permission of Sub-Divisional Magistrate before making the purchase. 
  • The government later framed the model rules to regulate the sale of acid throughout the country through retail outlets. The model rules framed by the government seek to regulate the grant of licences and also impose restrictions on the people to whom it could be sold. 
  • They also mandate maintenance of proper registers recording the sale of acid and by identifying the buyer to keep track of all sales.
  • According to the rules, no person, not exempted under the provision of the Poison Act would engage in the sale of or possession of the poison (acid). 
  • They provide for the duration of licence, discretion of licensing authority, termination of licence, disposal of stocks on termination, revocation or cancellation of license, the person or firm whom license could be granted etc. 
  • A licence holder shall not sell any poison to any person, unless the later is personally known to him or identified to his satisfaction by way of identity proof. 

Despite these rules and regulations, acid is still available very easily and thus the government should come up with some stern laws to prevent this from happening which would help in the decline of the gruesome incident.

Easy and cheap availability of acid has made it a weapon in the hands of perpetrators. These attacks, besides giving third and fourth degree burns, also damage victim's eyes, ears, and nose. As per reports, these attacks take place mostly in in smaller towns, which do not have specialized burn units or isolation wards.

While other countries like Bangladesh have separate laws for acid attacks since a decade and enforcement of those laws have helped reduce these attacks by nearly 70 per cent. But India is yet to make commendable changes in the system and bring about a big change and stop free flow of this dangerous liquid.

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