New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it will wait for the Centre and the state governments to explore ways to regulate sale of acids for domestic use before it imposes a ban on the chemical, being increasingly used to attack women.
Expressing displeasure that the matter has been pending for seven years, a bench headed by Justice R M Lodha said the apex court will consider banning sale of acids for domestic consumption if the state and the Central governments do not come out with a scheme.
The bench, also comprising justices Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, was hearing a PIL filed in 2006 by Delhi-based acid attack victim Laxmi, who was then a minor. Her arms, face and other body parts were disfigured in an acid attack.
The court was concerned with the gravity of the offence of acid attacks and the increasing frequency with which they are happening.
"Matter has been pending for seven years," it said.
"Acid attack is a serious offence and is happening quite regularly," the bench said, while posting the matter for further hearing on July 9.
Earlier, on February 6, the court had directed 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 of such victims.
The bench had said that for evolving such a policy, the Secretary, Ministry of Chemical and Fertilisers, and secretaries concerned from the states would be involved.
The Supreme Court had on August 31, 2012 also given the direction to convene such a meeting.
Not satisfied with the steps taken by the Centre to regulate the sale of acid and to curb its use for attacking women, the apex court had made it clear that the policy for the treatment, after care, rehabilitation and compensation to acid attack victims should be comprehensive, concrete and effective.
During the last hearing, Additional Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran had told the court that the Union Home Secretary had written a letter to the Ministry of Chemical and Fertiliser to constitute an expert group to examine whether a legislation can be enacted to ban free sale of acid.
Parasaran had said 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).
Laxmi`s counsel Aparna Bhat had, however, invited court`s attention to the Haryana scheme for care and rehabilitation of acid attack victims under which the state government has taken upon itself the entire responsibility for treatment and rehabilitation of acid attack victims.
The petitioner, in her plea, had sought framing of a new law or amendment to the existing criminal laws like IPC, Indian Evidence Act and CrPC for dealing with the offence, besides asking for compensation.
Laxmi was subjected to 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.