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Supreme Court wants acid sale regulated to prevent attacks

Posted on Feb 06, 10:08PM | IANS

New Delhi, Feb 6 : The Supreme Court Wednesday directed the union home secretary to convene a meeting of chief secretaries of all states and administrators of union territories to deliberate enactment for the effective regulation of the sale of acid to prevent acid attacks.

The apex court bench of Justice R.M. Lodha, Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice Madan B. Lokur said the meeting would also formulate policy for treatment, after-care and rehabilitation of acid attack victims.

The court said the meeting would also evolve policy for compensation to the victims of acid attacks, including creation of a separate corpus for this purpose.

The court said that the secretary, ministry of chemical and fertilizer, and concerned secretaries from the states would be involved in the exercise.

The court's direction to the union home secretary came in the course of the hearing of a petition seeking treatment, after-care and rehabilitation and compensation to the acid attack victims by the government and deterrent provision for the punishment of the accused.

As the court issued the directive to the union home secretary, it expressed its dissatisfaction with the steps taken by him in pursuance of the Aug 31, 2012, direction to convene such a meeting.

"We are not satisfied," Justice Lodha said when Additional Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran told the court that in pursuance of its Aug 31, 2012, direction the home secretary had written a letter to the ministry of chemical and fertilizer that it may constitute an expert group to examine the possibility of enacting legislation for banning the counter sale of acid.

The home ministry's communication to Parasaran said the matter was referred to the chemical and fertilizer ministry as the issue of regulating the sale of acid came under its preview.

Parasaran told the court that on Feb 3 the government issued an ordinance amending the Indian Penal Code and making acid attack a specific criminal offence. The court was told that the ordinance was given assent by the president.

Holding that the policy for the treatment, after-care, rehabilitation and compensation to the acid attack victims should be "comprehensive, concrete and effective", Justice Lodha said that if "we have waited for seven years (the petition is of 2006), then we can wait for another seven days so that we can pass an appropriate order."

"When it comes to court, you give us a very rosy picture as every thing will be done" but that does not happen, Justice Lodha said as Parasaran made some submission.

Holding the scheme for the rehabilitation of the acid attack victims was defective, the court said that if the accused was not in a position to pay the compensation (as provided under the statute) to the victim that does not mean that state will pay it. "The scheme does not take care of this aspect."

Justice Lokur too echoed similar sentiments when he wondered what would happen if the accused in acid attack case was not able to pay the compensation.

As counsel Aparna Bhat appearing for the PIL petitioner appreciated the Haryana scheme for the care and rehabilitation of acid attack victims, the court observed: "Why not Haryana scheme be a model for other states?"

The Haryana government under its scheme has taken upon itself the entire responsibility for the treatment and rehabilitation of acid attack victims.

As the court was told that 13 states have notified Victim Compensation Scheme, it said that in every matter the court cannot ask the chief secretaries to step in.

There must be a sense of responsibility, the court said when it was told that state governments should take upon themselves the responsibility of the treatment, after-care and rehabilitations of acid attack victims.

The court gave six weeks for convening of state chief secretaries' meeting and another two weeks for Parasaran to file report before the court.