Stores disregard SC mandate on selling acid
The stores are not following a court order that they only sell acid after collecting proof of the identity of the buyers. The city witnessed three acid attacks in two months, with the victims suffering severe burns. Sulfuric acid is commonly used to clean tiles and unclog drains.
In 2013, the Supreme Court issued guidelines on how acid should be sold and required stores to take proof of identity from buyers.
In the wake of recent acid attacks, activists want stricter enforcement of the rule and tough penalties.
Activists and industry bodies Metrolife spoke to said they were unaware of any inspections or crackdowns on stores failing to follow the guidelines.
Citizen activist Tara Krishnaswamy says the sale and supply of acid should be strictly regulated. “It should be done with a proper license, and any over-the-counter selling should be punished,” she says.
Pragya Prasun Singh, founder of the Atijeevan Foundation, said cases had declined during the pandemic.
“As of April 2020, no cases have been reported in the country. At the end of 2020, a few incidents came to light and in 2021, 25 to 27 attacks were reported across the country,” she says.
Awareness of the tribunal’s mandate is better among traders in Delhi and Mumbai, according to Pragya, a resident of CV Raman Nagar and an acid attack survivor.
Satya K, who is part of Aweksha, a women’s charity attached to Victoria Hospital working with victims of burns and acid attacks, says Bengaluru reports two or three cases of acid attacks. acid every year since 2019, only making a vacuum in 2021.
“Acid attacks are not carried out impulsively. They are planned at least a week in advance,” she explains.
According to social activist Brinda Adige, many cases go unreported and the police are not sensitized to the urgency of such cases.
Even if a police officer asks the right questions, the survivor often receives no protection. The families of the victims also do not receive counselling, she says.
“The charge sheet, which can be completed in 10 to 15 days, often takes much longer. Many police also try to discourage the victim from filing a complaint and focus on ‘solutions’ like plastic surgery and compensation for the family of the accused,” she adds.
The law states that as soon as the FIR is registered, the victim should get 25% compensation from the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority (which averages Rs. 25,000), in under the victim compensation program.
Total compensation is usually around Rs 3.25 lakh, but it depends on the judge and the case, depending on the severity of the burns.
“Families are often discouraged by the long process. The law allows the police to take a statement before a magistrate under Article 164, but how often does this happen? ” She wonders.
The case continues for years in court. “By the time it’s settled, the victim might not even be able to have surgery,” she says.
Only in four or five cases have the perpetrators been sentenced to long prison terms, says Pragya. “Often bail is granted on humanitarian grounds – the defendant is the sole breadwinner – or the prison sentence is reduced,” she says. The state government needs to closely monitor the sale of acid, Brinda says.
“A central data system, which lists all the details like the customer’s phone number and proof of identity, should be maintained. This could deter potential perpetrators,” Brinda notes. Information about former authors
must be accessible to the public. Courts should speed up their proceedings and judgments should be available in the public domain, she adds.
Satya says the judiciary must punish all burn-related crimes and treat victims equally, regardless of the degree of injury.
Aweksha receives at least one burn case per day. “These are caused by kerosene, bottled gas, petrol, diesel, paint thinner and now even hand sanitizer. In most cases women try to burn themselves but it there is always a history of domestic violence and abuse by lovers, husbands and in-laws behind such a move,” she says.
A burned centenarian was taken to hospital. She had been tortured by her family, Satya said.
In Victoria, 200 cases of burns per month
Dr Ramesha KT, head of plastic surgery and burns at Victoria Hospital, says acid attacks cause more damage than fire accidents. “Acid attacks affect the skin worse than a normal burn. One can lose sight and the severity of scars and deformities is higher. Even with corrective surgeries, one may not get satisfactory results,” he says. “Each year we see about 2,400 cases of burns, of which acid attacks are a small number. Over the past decade, we have received an average of three or four cases a year,” he says.
The law says
Section 326 A of the Indian Penal Code stipulates that those who cause serious damage with acid should be imprisoned for at least 10 years, and even sentenced to life imprisonment, with a fine.
Bengalureans have witnessed three acid attacks in recent weeks:
April 28: Nagesh Babu threw acid at a 25-year-old woman in Sunkadakatte.
May 30: Janata Adak threw acid on a male colleague. The two worked at a jewelry store in Cubbonpet.
June 10: Ahmed threw acid at a 32-year-old woman at Kumaraswamy Layout.
(With contributions by Barkha Kumari)