Official thumbs down to blanket ban on acid sale

A suggestion for a total ban on acid sale in the city as a step to check attacks on women has been shot down by Delhi government officials who called it “unfeasible”.

Dozens of women are disfigured by jilted lovers in the city while the efforts by official machinery to regulate the sale of the corrosive liquid, used in industries and homes for cleaning tiles, seems to have failed miserably checking its misuse. 

“A blanket ban on acid sale is unfeasible,” said Revenue Principle Secretary S N Sahai.
While women groups and NGOs demand drastic steps like a blanket ban on acid sale to save women from attacks and hate crimes, Sahai said a total ban would create more problems.

“This issue has been discussed at length earlier also and the conclusion that emerged was that a strict regulation of acid sale is the way forward and not a blanket ban,” Sahai said.

Even if we ban sale of acid in Delhi, the criminals may get it from neighbouring states, he said, adding that such a move may also promote black marketing and illegal stocking of acid.

According to NGO Stop Acid Attacks, “The open sale of acid for domestic purposes should be controlled and preferably banned by the government. For, industrial, commercial and all other purposes, it must be sold under licenced dealers and its procurement be made possible against production of suitable identity proof.”

The Supreme Court has laid down guidelines for strict regulation of sale of acid, ban on sale of acid to minors and maintenance of records of all purchasers of acid by retailers but the Delhi administration has been lax in checking the open sale of acid.

Sources in the government and even retailers in the city claim nothing really has changed despite the apex court’s intervention.

A shopkeeper who sells acid in south Delhi’s Saket area said: “We also heard about the restrictions on sale of acid proposed by the court but no one has ever come to check my shop. If the government exerts too much pressure on us to maintain acid sale records and send stock details to officials every fortnight, I would rather stop selling acid than carry out the cumbersome paper work.”

Sahai said as per the court orders regulating the sale of acid in the capital, every Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) have been given a target for raids on retail outlets.
“Over 7,000 outlets have been raided in last two years,” he said.

The Supreme Court passed an interim order in July 2013 regulating the sale of acid at retail outlets. The court directed states and Union Territories to form rules to regulate sale of acids and other corrosive substances within three months, and to make acid attack a non-bailable offence.

According to the court’s direction, acid cannot be sold to persons below the age of 18 years, and the seller has to declare all the stock available with him to SDM within 15 days from the date of the notification of the rules.

The apex court had asked medical and educational institutions to take permission of the SDM before making bulk purchases of acid.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had recently voiced concern over increasing incidents of acid attacks on women and promised online monitoring of sale of acid to check such crimes.

The home minister said that the new system would be first launched in Delhi.
Acid, according to officials, is used in industrial production processes and also in homes for cleaning tiles and floors. The easy and unregulated availability of the domestic-use acid in colony markets is one the reason behind its misuse in crimes.

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