Topics Covered: Issues related to women.
HC seeks govt. stand on plea to ban acid sale
What to study?
For Prelims: Overview of the guidelines.
For Mains: Loopholes, challenges in implementation and ways to address them.
Context: The Delhi High Court has sought the State government’s stand on a plea by an acid attack survivor, who has alleged that the chemical was easily available despite the Supreme Court’s directions to regulate its sale. She also alleged that the statutory rules which regulate the sale of acid were not being implemented by the authorities.
Need for stricter compliance:
Acid violence is often referred to as “weapon of misogyny”, “result of toxic masculinity” and “weapon of patriarchy” for targeting women who have tried to assert their agency by refusing to pay dowry, asking for their property rights, defying religious norms or social custom, or laughing loudly, refusing to wear hijab, or choosing to wear jeans and most commonly rejecting a love proposal. Acid violence is a premeditated attack born out of a feeling of vengeance intended to put the victim who dares to challenge the attacker.
Till 2013, there was no separate provision in the Indian Penal Code to charge those accused of acid attacks, nor were there rules restricting sale and purchase of acid. But after the Supreme Court directives to regulate the sale of harmful substances like acid, the government declared acid attacks a cognizable offence under Section 326 (A) of the Indian Penal Code with punishment up to 10 years. The Supreme Court ordered strict restrictions on the sale of acid which were seldom followed.
What are the Supreme Court guidelines on this?
These guidelines were an outcome of the 2013 SC ruling.
The ruling came during the hearing of an acid attack case in which a woman, Laxmi, whose face and other body parts were disfigured in an acid attack.
- The victim had filed a PIL asking for the framing of a new law, or amendment to the existing laws such as IPC, Indian Evidence Act and CrPC. The PIL asked for changes in the existing laws to enable dealing with the offence as well as asking for compensation.
- In her PIL, she had also asked for a total ban on the sale of acid at the retail level.
Following this, the court had directed the Centre to frame guidelines in this regard.
Overview of the guidelines:
- Acid should be sold only to people who show a valid identity card.
- Buyers will also have explain why they need the chemical and sales will have to be reported to the police.
- There will also be more compensation for victims.
Present challenges and concerns:
- In clear defiance of the Court’s guidelines, acid is regularly available in India across various pharmacy or grocery shops.
- Although the acid available in markets is diluted, there is complete absence of regulation to determine if the level of dilution confirms to the prescribed safety levels.
- The issue of compliance has been brought to the Court’s notice by a writ petition which is currently pending. Such clear defiance of the Court’s guidelines has resulted in easy availability of acid and is an encouraging factor for prospective perpetrators.
- Besides, acid is allowed to be politicised for the guidelines have not been implemented by several state governments.
Acid attacks are a problem throughout South Asia, with cases also reported in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. There are an estimated 1,000 acid attacks a year in India. The victims, who have to live with terrible disfigurements, are mainly women and are often targeted by jealous partners.
- Acid attacks are not like normal crimes. They are the handiwork of individuals with a perverted mentality. Such people become blind and insensitive so they need to be identified and injurious substances like acid or arms must be kept away from them.
- The government at every level including all the state governments need to answer the question of why acid is still available for sale in the market.
Sources: the Hindu.