27 July 2023 10:34 AM GMT
While refusing to put a complete ban on the sale of acid in the national capital, the Delhi High Court on Thursday directed the Delhi Government to ensure proper implementation of existing laws and take swift action against those using it unlawfully. The court said a complete ban may inadvertently affect businesses and individuals who require it for lawful purposesAcknowledging the threat...
While refusing to put a complete ban on the sale of acid in the national capital, the Delhi High Court on Thursday directed the Delhi Government to ensure proper implementation of existing laws and take swift action against those using it unlawfully. The court said a complete ban may inadvertently affect businesses and individuals who require it for lawful purposes
Acknowledging the threat posed by uncontrolled acid sales and the need for stringent measures to prevent acid attacks, a division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula said:
“Therefore, on the basis of material before us, we are of the opinion that an outright ban on the sale of acid may not be the most appropriate approach. Instead, we propose that the State must focus on stringent implementation of the existing rules and regulations governing the sale. By enforcing 2015 Rules with full rigor, the authorities can effectively regulate the sale of acid and prevent its misuse for criminal purposes. This approach would balance the concerns addressed by the Petitioner with the need for safeguarding the legitimate needs of various industries and individuals.”
The bench added that the Delhi Government must ensure that the the provisions of Delhi Poisons Possession and Sale Rules, 2015, which permits sale of acid to vendors who are licensed at the discretion of the licensing authority, must be diligently and strictly enforced to prevent unlawful use of acid by offenders.
“By imposing strict penalties on those found to be involved in the illegal sale or misuse of acid, the State authorities can create a deterrent effect and encourage compliance with the Rules. Through strict regulation and monitoring of sale by the law enforcement agencies, the likelihood of occurrence of acid attacks can be significantly reduced. Adopting such a proactive approach will send a clear message that perpetrators will face consequences for their actions,” the court said.
It further directed the Delhi Government to conduct a “comprehensive empirical study” aimed at assessing the potential consequences of a complete ban on acid sale on various sectors, individuals, and businesses.
“Adopting an evidence-based approach will enable the State to better understand the existing policy, the ramifications of changes advocated by the Petitioner, and ascertain its impact on public safety, industry, and other legitimate uses of acid. The study should analyse the historical data on acid-related incidents and also examine the effectiveness of past regulations and their impact on reducing incidence of acid attacks,” the court said.
The bench added that the enquiry should also explore alternative measures to enhance public safety in the event a total prohibition is found inviable.
“For these purposes, engagement with various stakeholders, including advocacy groups, industry representatives, legal experts and medical professionals can provide valuable insights. Based on the findings of the empirical study, GNCTD can analyse and identify any gaps or shortcomings in the existing regulatory scheme and take a well-informed decision,” the court observed.
The court disposed of a public interest litigation filed by an acid attack survivor and social activist seeking directions on Delhi Government for total ban on over-the-counter sale of acid in retail stores across Delhi.
She had contended that there are viable alternatives available for cleaning tasks, and therefore, permitting open sale of acid, which is relatively inexpensive, is unnecessary. She further argued that perceived advantages of acid are relatively trivial when weighed against the potential damages that it can cause. Justifying the request for a total ban, she said the acid used for manufacturing purposes is of industrial grade, which is distinct from acids that are usually used in attacks.
The court said the issue raised by the petitioner is undeniably significant, and the judgments of the Supreme Court provide compelling grounds for her concern and angst. However, the court said a total ban could have unintended consequences, affecting sectors where acid is responsibly and safely utilized.
“We would also like to emphasize that our decision should not be construed as a complete closure to the debate on the issue. We grant the Petitioner the liberty to approach this Court again in case breaches in implementation of the regulations continue, even after a reasonable period of time. By granting this liberty, we endeavour to ensure that the Petitioner’s concerns are adequately addressed and there is room for further exploration of alternatives, if the need arises,” the bench said.
The court also said that it hopes that the Delhi Government and Delhi Police will approach the matter with “utmost seriousness” and will demonstrate a “vigilant and decisive approach” in strict implementation of the provisions of law.
“Having personally experienced the traumatic impact of an acid attack, the Petitioner’s dedication to aiding survivors demonstrates a deeper understanding of the issue and implications arising from unrestricted sale of acid. As an activist, her work is a testament to her commitment towards seeking justice, rehabilitation and societal support for acid attack survivors. We appreciate her efforts in this regard,” the court said.
Title: SHAHEEN MALIK v. STATE OF GNCTD THROUGH PRINCIPAL SECRETARY & ORS
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Del) 632
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