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Mar. 31 deadline for acid sale rule

New Delhi/ Bokaro, Dec. 3: The Supreme Court today granted time till March 31, 2014, to all states and Union Territories to frame rules for “regulating sale of acid and other corrosive substances” to prevent their misuse in view of increasing acid attacks in India.

The apex court also asked states and Union Territories to consider adopting the model policy introduced by Haryana and Puducherry of bearing “100 per cent treatment costs and rehab” of victims.

A three-member bench of Justice R.M. Lodha, Madan B. Lokur and Kurien Joseph also asked all chief secretaries of states to file a response on providing free-of-cost treatment, including plastic surgery, to acid attack victims.

“We direct chief secretaries of all states and administrators of Union Territories to comply with the directive and frame rules to regulate the sale of acid at the earliest, possibly by March 31, 2014,” the bench said.

It directed whenever an FIR is lodged in an acid attack case, the subdivisional magistrate of the area would hold an inquiry on how the accused had obtained the restricted substance. This would be in addition to the FIR and criminal case against the accused.

Jharkhand’s acid attack victim Sonali Mukherjee, now undergoing a series of surgeries in Delhi funded by NGOs, welcomed the SC order.

“It is a welcome step. But states and district administrations must implement the order with an iron hand. Otherwise, it will make no difference to either potential attackers or victims. Many small-time traders can sell acid for profit. The administration must keep strict vigil,” Sonali said over phone from Delhi.

Regarding treatment, she said: “I hope other victims get fast relief, something I could not for so many years.”

The Supreme Court had on July 18 banned “over-the-counter” sale of acid earlier directed this crime be made a non-bailable offence and had enhanced to Rs 3 lakh the victim’s compensation.

The court had said an official photo ID card with residential proof would be required to buy such substances. Acid cannot be sold to a person below 18 years. The bench was hearing a PIL filed in 2006 by Delhi victim Laxmi.