SC bans over-the-counter sale of acid, orders Rs3 lakh compensation to victims

The Supreme Court today passed an interim order banning all over-the-counter sales of acids in order to regulate its retail sale across the country even as the government agreed to classify acid as poison, in a major step towards curbing acid attacks across the country.

The court issued detailed directions for regulating the sale of acid at retail outlets even as the government presented before the Supreme Court a report on the steps it intended to take to ban the sale of acid in the open market.

Acid will now be categorised as poison, the government told the apex court, adding the seller will need a licence and the buyer will have to submit a photo identity card and an address proof to purchase acid.

A bench headed by Justice RM Lodha also ordered the government to pay a compensation of Rs3 lakh each to acid attack victims.

As per the SC order, the government would pay an acid attack victim Rs1 lakh within 15 days of the incident and the remaining Rs2 lakh within two months for treatment.

"Over-the-counter sale of acid is completely prohibited unless the seller maintains a log/register recording ... the details of the person(s) to whom acid (s) is/are sold, the quantity sold and shall contain the address of the person to whom it is sold," the court said in an interim order.

No acid would also be sold to any person below the age of 18 years, the court said.

Retail outlets having licence to sell acid will have to maintain a stock register, failure of which will lead to a fine of Rs50,000.

The court said that the violation of its directions "shall attract prosecution under the Poisons Act, 1919" and "the SDM shall be vested with the responsibility of fining the violators and initiating prosecution".

The court direction came on a public interest litigation filed by acid attack victim Laxmi seeking regulation of the sale of acid.

The petitioner also sought provision for treatment and rehabilitation and compensation for acid attack victims.

The court order directs all states, which already have rules to regulate the sale of acid, to reinforce them and those who don't have them to frame them within three months.

The judges said their order "shall be translated into vernacular languages and published in local newspapers and television channels".