The government of India has told the apex court of the country that there is no need for any special legislation to deter acid-attackers. A rigorous implementation of the existing provisions would do, it says.
Acid attacks, especially on women, are reported regularly from various parts. In the circumstances, pressure is mounting on the federal government for tough new laws to deal with the menace.
The Supreme Court is now hearing a public interest litigation petition filed in 2006 by a Delhi-based minor girl, Laxmi whose arms, face and other body parts were disfigured in an acid attack.
Laxmi, through her counsel Aparna Bhat, has sought framing of a new law or amendment in the existing criminal laws like IPC, Indian Evidence Act and the CrPC for dealing with the offence and has also sought compensation which has not yet been provided.
The acid was thrown at the victim by three youths near Tughlaq Road as she had refused to marry one of them.
The trial is going on for the offence of attempt to murder and two of the accused are out on bail. The court during an earlier hearing had expressed displeasure over the reluctance of the state to provide compensation to a victim of acid attack and had termed the act as "worse than murder".
When the matter was heard last on December 18, 2008, the counsel had drawn the attention of the court to the incident of acid attack on two college girls in Andhra Pradesh to buttress the contention for a ban on free sale of acid which has emerged as a weapon of attack.
"A ban on free sale of acid and a law to regulate and restrict its sale should be considered," Bhat had argued.
However, the Centre had said that the issue of banning the sale of acid has to be decided by the state governments and it had not found favour with them.
The Centre, which was also asked to consider a law similar to the one in Bangladesh to regulate and restrict the sale of acid to check its use as a weapon, had said such a step would not be practical and it would lead to "Inspector Raj".
"As regards banning the free sale of acid, the state governments representatives were almost unanimous against the proposed ban for the reason that the same is not practical since acid is needed for many purposes in and around the household."
"Similarly, licensing the sale of acid was also opposed on the grounds that it could lead to the Inspector Raj," the Centre had said in its reply to the suggestion. However, the Centre had said most of the state governments were "in favour of strengthening the provisions of the IPC to take care of the offence of acid attack and attack by other corrosive materials as well as by hot water".
The country's Law Commission has recommended insertion of Section 326 A in the IPC and provision of a minimum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a maximum of life sentence for acid attacks.
The Commission has also recommended enactment of a 'Criminal Injuries Compensation Act' to provide both interim and final monetary compensation to victims of rape, sexual assault and acid attacks.
In its response, the Centre said: "Provisions of Section 326 IPC [grievous hurt] are sufficiently deterrent to deal with offence of acid attack. There is need to curb all kinds of crime, including crime of acid attacks. Further, it will be difficult to equate the victim of acid attack with a rape victim."
It also said provisions for drawing of schemes for compensation and rehabilitation of victims of crimes including acid attack were incorporated in the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 2006. Once this was made a law, problems relating to rehabilitation of acid attack victims would be addressed adequately.