Supreme Court orders government to regulate sale, distribution of acids

Kathmandu, August 9

In a move to curb incidents of acid attacks in society, the Supreme Court today ordered the government to regulate sale and distribution of acids.

A division bench of justices Om Prakash Mishra and Tej Bahadur KC  issued a writ of mandamus against the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers and others as demanded by petitioner Advocate Shashi Basnet and others associated with Justice and Rights Institute Nepal.

The government bodies will now have to enact laws to regulate sale and distribution of acids and provide free  treatment to acid victims.

The petitioners  demanded that acid victims should be treated free of cost and the Ministry of Supply should be told to enact laws to regulate and control sale and distribution of acids and formulate necessary directives before enactment of  relevant laws.

They also demanded that acid attack should be included in the definition of beating in the ‘Hurt and Battery’ chapter of the General Code.

The petitioners demanded that the Ministry of Health categorise service for acid attack victims in the government’s essential and primary health services.

They said Bangladesh succeeded in reducing acid attacks by 15 per cent after enacting new laws to control sale and distribution of acids.

Central Police Spokesperson DIG Pushkar Karki told THT that the best way to control sale and distribution of acids was to make provisions for sale and distribution of acid only on doctor’s prescription. “At present one can buy it anywhere, even in jewellery shops. This should not be the case,” Karki, who was the leading investigating officer on the Jhochhen acid attack case, said. “Regulating sale and distribution of acid should, however, not make it difficult for those who need it for valid reasons,” he added.

Spokesperson for Ministry of Industry Purushottam Nepal told THT that his ministry would discuss the issues with other stakeholders and take an appropriate decision to comply with the apex court’s order.

Several countries have enacted laws to prevent acid sale. Bangladesh enforced Acid Control Act in 2002. The law provisions a jail sentence of three to 10 years for any person who produces, imports, transports, stores, sells, distributes and uses unlicensed acid.

Pakistan also enacted a law in this regard in 2011. India, on the other hand, has a provision to prohibit sale of acids unless the seller maintains a record of the buyers.

According to a 2015 report of Acid Survivors Foundation that petitioners quoted, out of 74 acid attacks victims, 50 were females.

Perpetrators mainly throw acid on victims to disfigure them and make them face physical, mental, social and psychological challenges. Sulphuric acid and nitric acid are the most common and dangerous acids used by perpetrators and are easily available in the market.