New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed displeasure over the steps taken in the last seven years by the government to evolve a comprehensive, concrete and effective law to deal with growing acid attacks and ordered convening a meeting of states and UTs on the issues.
"We are not satisfied," a bench headed by Justice R M Lodha said while directing the Centre to convene in six weeks a meeting of Chief Secretaries of all states and Union Territories to hold discussion for enacting a law to regulate the sale of acids and a policy for treatment, compensation and care and rehabilitation to victims of acid attacks.
The bench said that for evolving such policy, the Secretary, Ministry of Chemical and Fertilizers, and concerned secretaries from the states would be involved in the exercise.
Not satisfied with the steps taken by the Centre to regulate the sale of acid and to curb its use for attacking women, the bench, also comprising justices J Chelameswar and Madan B Lokur, said "the policy for the treatment, after care, rehabilitation and compensation to acid attack victims should be comprehensive, concrete and effective."
"We have waited for seven years, then we can wait for another seven days so that we can pass an appropriate order," the bench said.
The bench passed the order on a PIL filed in 2006 by Delhi-based victim Laxmi who was then a minor. Her arms, face and other body parts were disfigured in an acid attack.
While noting that the petition has been pending since 2006, the bench said "when it comes to court, you give us a very rosy picture as everything will be done but that does not happen."
The remarks were made when Additional Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran was making his submission and appraising the court about the developments that took place in pursuance to the August 31, 2012, direction of the apex court to convene such a meeting.
He told the bench that the Union Home Secretary had written a letter to the Ministry of Chemical and Fertilizer to constitute an expert group to examine whether a legilslation can be enacted to ban free sale of acid.
Parasaran also told the court that on February 3, 2013, the government had issued an ordinance amending the Indian Penal Code and making acid attack a specific offence by introducing section 326(a) and (b).
Advocate Aparna Bhat, appearing for the PIL petitioner, drew the attention of the court to the Haryana scheme for the care and rehabilitation of acid attack victims.
"Why not Haryana scheme be a model for other states"? the bench said.
Haryana government under its scheme has taken upon itself the entire responsibility for the treatment and rehabilitation of acid attack victims.
The petitioner, in her plea, had sought framing of a new law or amending of the existing criminal laws like IPC, Indian Evidence Act and CrPC for dealing with the offence, besides asking for compensation.
Laxmi was subjected to the acid attack by three youths near Tughlaq Road here as she had refused to marry one of them, according to the petition. The trial is going on for the offence of attempt to murder and two of the accused are out on bail.
In her petition, Laxmi had pleaded for a total ban on sale of acid as there was increasing number of incidents of such attacks on women in different states.
The petitioner had also submitted that even a small country like Bangladesh had taken measures to prevent such attacks.
On July 2 last year, the apex court had asked the Centre to apprise it of the measures to regulate the sale of acid to prevent its misuse as a weapon, particularly against women.
The court had asked the Union Home Ministry on April 29 last year to coordinate with the states and Union Territories for formulation of an appropriate scheme.
The apex court had also sought responses of the Centre and state governments on whether any suitable scheme can be prepared by them to provide adequate compensation to the victims for their treatment and rehabilitation.