Government for harsher punishment for throwing acid on women

July 21st, 2008 - 8:06 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 21 (IANS) The government Monday informed the Supreme Court it was willing to amend penal laws to provide for harsher punishment for throwing acid on women - a crime the apex court has described as “worse than murder”. Additional Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran told the bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan that unlike as in the normal penal laws, the government even wanted to put the onus on the person accused of throwing acid to prove his innocence.

He also told the bench that the government was also “in favour of providing compensation to the victims of acid attack”.

Parasaran, however, pointed out to the bench that as the subject of criminal laws figures in the Concurrent List of the Constitution, with both the central and state governments empowered to make laws on it, the central government was engaged in consultation with the states to decide on the exact provisions of law.

The law officer told the bench, which also included Justices L.S. Panta and P. Sathasivam, that wider consultations with the states was also necessary as it is finally the state governments that implement the laws on criminal matters.

In an affidavit filed through Parasaran, the central government said almost all the state governments’ home secretaries had favoured making punishment for acid attack harsher during a conference in New Delhi July 7.

But they wanted time to discuss the issue with their respective state governments.

While favouring harsher punishment for throwing acid on women, the government, however, expressed disinclination to ban the sale of acid in open market.

“As regards banning the free sale of acid, the state governments’ representatives opposed it saying it was not a practical step as acid is needed for many household works and licensing its sale would lead to an Inspector Raj,” the government said in its affidavit.

The government made its submission during a hearing of a lawsuit by Laxmi, a girl from Delhi, seeking harsher punishment for people who threw acid on women.

A man had thrown acid on Laxmi, 19, for refusing to marry him, severely disfiguring her arms, face and other body parts.

While hearing the lawsuit in April, the apex court had asked the central government to examine the feasibility of having a separate stringent penal law akin to the one in Bangladesh to deal with the instances of throwing acids on women and girls.

The court had also asked the government to examine the feasibility of regulating the sale of acid on the lines of provisions in Bangladesh.

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