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Saving face in India

While there are no official statistics of such attacks in India, it is estimated that there are as many as 1,000 acid attacks a year in the country. The frequency and gravity of acid attacks call for a preventive and punitive policy right now.

india Updated: Jul 19, 2013 22:20 IST
Hindustan Times
acid attacks,Preeti rathi case,diluted form

In a petition in, Amar Singh Rathi makes a moving demand for a CBI inquiry into the acid attack on his daughter Preeti by an unidentified man in Mumbai on May 2.

In another petition, Shailesh Paswan writes about how four men poured acid on her daughter Chanchal in Patna because she protested against their sexual advances.

While there are no official statistics of such attacks in India, it is estimated that there are as many as 1,000 acid attacks a year in the country. Despite the gravity of the situation, the Centre doesn’t seem to be very bothered about tackling this ghastly crime.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court came down heavily on it for failing to implement its 11-month order to come up with a framework on regulating the sale of acid and gave it another week to do so, failing which it would pass an order on July 16.

On February 6, the court had directed the Centre to discuss with the chief secretaries of states and Union Territories the modalities of enacting a law to regulate the sale of acid and a policy for treatment, compensation and care and rehabilitation of such victims.

The Supreme Court wants this new framework because buying acid is as easy as buying vegetables in India: a 750-ml bottle can be brought from a neighbourhood shop.

Activists, rightly so, say that this open sale must be curbed, only authorised vendors should be allowed to sell it, the identity of the buyers must be recorded and that acid for non-industrial purposes should be sold in a diluted form.

As far as the law against offenders is concerned, the accused can be jailed for eight to 12 years depending on the injuries inflicted.

But the offence is bailable. Considering the number of cases, the law doesn’t seem to be working as a deterrent and the punishments should be more stringent. Most of all, the victims should be ensured time-bound justice.

In Bangladesh, India has a role model as far as the law against acid attacks is concerned. In 2002, the Bangladesh government passed two acts, the Acid Control Act 2002 and the Acid Crime Prevention Acts 2002 (1st and 2nd Act), restricting the import and sale of acid in open markets.

Among the provisions are locking up shops to prevent the sale of acid and banning transport engaged in carrying acid, temporary cancellation of acid selling licences and capital punishment for the acid thrower and a hefty financial penalty.

Are you an acid attack victim? Do you know an acid attack victim? Tell us your story

First Published: Jul 10, 2013 17:00 IST