The Centre on Monday failed to come up with a clear stand in the Supreme Court on the issue of framing a new law or making amendments in the existing ones to deal with acid attacks,which are on the rise,as a special offence.
When the matter came up for hearing before a Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan,it was informed that the Centre has not filed the counter affidavit on the petition.
The court was told that the report of the Law Commission on the issue was supplied to all concerned parties and National Commission for Women has placed a draft legislation to make acid attack a serious offence.
The court was hearing a PIL 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 Centre had said that at the conference of Chief Secretaries of state governments and Union Territories,it was suggested that the IPC and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) should be amended to deal with acid attack as a special offence.
Suggestions for adding a new section 326A to IPC after the existing section 326 (voluntary causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons) were also made it had said.
The Centre said state government representatives were in favour of providing compensation to the victims of acid attack but wanted time to decide on the issue of quantum as well as the methodology of delivering it to the victim.
The National Commission for Women also proposed a piece of legislation to cover compensation for the victims of acid attack and for insertion of a new provision in the IPC making attempt to throw acid a serious offence punishable by not less than seven years imprisonment and a fine of Rs one lakh.
The proposal by NCW had said that for the act of throwing acid the,minimum punishment should be at least 10 years’ imprisonment,extendable to life sentence. For payment of compensation to victims,an amendment should be brought about in CrPC.
The Centre had said a Bill to amend the CrPC was introduced in Parliament in 2006 and recommendations made at the Conference are being studied and a view will be taken shortly.
The CrPC (Amendment) Bill,2006 has been examined and Parliamentary Standing Committee of Ministry of Home Affairs had submitted its report. Some of the recommendations have been accepted,the Centre had said.
During the hearing on April 28 last year,the court had said that the Centre was not serious on framing a new law to deal with incidents of acid attack which had increased manifold in the past few years.