NEW DELHI (TIP): The Supreme Court cracked down on the sale of acid, currently available over the counter, to try and put an end to the regular and horrific attacks on women across the country that lead to disfigurement and death. Among the latest of these incidents was one in Mumbai where an unknown attacker hurled acid at a 23-year-old woman as she got off a suburban train on 2 May—she died of her injuries a month later.
The Supreme Court bench of justices R.M. Lodha and F.M.I. Kalifulla imposed strict restrictions on the sale of the chemicals on July 18, castigated state governments for not providing enough compensation to victims and stipulated the amount of money that should be given to them. Apart from this, suspects can also be arrested without a warrant and bail will be up to the court. Anyone buying acid will need to furnish government-approved identity proof and state the reason for the purchase, which has to be recorded by the seller, the court said.
The court said compensation by state governments was “grossly inadequate” and set this at Rs.3 lakh to facilitate immediate medical attention and relief. Out of this, Rs.1 lakh will be paid to the victim within 15 days of the incident and the rest will be paid “as expeditiously as possible” and possibly within two months, it added. A petition filed by an acid attack victim in 2006 had sought the regulation of acid sales as well as adequate compensation and rehabilitation of acid attack victims.
The easy availability of acids—they are used as household cleaning agents for instance—combined with the appalling attitude towards women in India and other parts of the subcontinent has made the corrosive agents a handy weapon for attackers, rights groups have said. States will now have to follow the rules introduced by the central government for regulating the sale of acid and only those that have even more stringent conditions will be spared the government’s regulatory framework, the court said.
It also made acid attacks a cognizable and nonbailable offence, which means that the police can arrest suspects without a warrant and bail will be a matter of judicial discretion. The empowerment of women and bringing about a change in the mindset of a society in which women are highly unsafe are equally important, said Ranjana Kumari, director at Centre for Social Research.