The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) has sought explanation from e-commerce player Flipkart regarding sale of acid on its online platform.

 

Background

  • A 17-year-old girl was attacked with acid, on her way to school in the Dwarka area of West Delhi.
  • Three people were arrested in connection with the matter. According to reports, the main accused bought the acid through an e-commerce portal.
  • Questions have been raised on the availability and retail sale of acid in markets despite a ban.

 

Intervention of CCPA

  • The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) has sought explanation from e-commerce player Flipkart regarding sale of acid on its online platform.
    • CCPA was established under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers as a class.
    • It is empowered to —
      • conduct investigations into violation of consumer rights and institute complaints / prosecution,
      • order recall of unsafe goods and services,
      • order discontinuation of unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements,
      • impose penalties on manufacturers/endorsers/publishers of misleading advertisements.
  • CCPA has pointed out that the easy availability of acid on e-commerce platform can be dangerous, hazardous and unsafe for consumers.

 

Acid Attacks in India

  • As per an analysis of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, 14 cases of acid attacks were reported per month across the country in 2021.
    • The number of reported cases saw some decline over the years. However, not all these cases go to trial.
    • Experts believe that the number of reported cases might be low.
      • There are cases where acid attacks happen as part of domestic violence where women are pressured to not report it.
  • While the conviction rate remains low, the acquittal rate remains considerably high in the country.
    • In 2021, in only three cases, there was a conviction of the accused, while in 11 cases, the accused was acquitted.

 

Existing regulations to control acid attack in India

  • Over-the-counter sale is banned in India —
    • The Supreme Court banned over-the-counter acid sales across the country in 2013.
      • Over-the-counter sale of acid is prohibited unless the seller maintains a log/register recording the sale of acid, which will contain the details of the person to whom acid is sold and the quantity sold.
      • The log/register shall contain the address of the person to whom it is sold.
    • After the landmark verdict in Laxmi Agarwal’s case in 2013, the Supreme Court also laid out certain guidelines, making license mandatory for selling acid.
  • Registration of Shops —
    • Shops need to be registered under the Poison Act 1919. Rules are there for the buyer as well.
    • A person has to provide an ID card to buy acid and disclose the reason for doing so. Moreover, acids can’t be sold to anyone below 18 years of age.
    • Those violating rules need to pay a fine of Rs 50,000.
  • Legal provisions available to deal with the crime —
    • Unfortunately, in India, there was no separate legislation to deal with acid attacks before the passing of The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act. 2013.
    • The offense was registered under Sections 320, 322, 325, 326, and 307 of the Indian Penal Code (I.P.C).
      • Section 320 — Grievous Hurt; Section 322 – Voluntarily causing Grievous Hurt; Section 325 – Punishment For Voluntarily Causing Grievous Hurt; Section 326 – Voluntarily Causing Grievous Hurt By Dangerous Weapons Or Means; Section 307 – Attempt To Murder.
    • Later, the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013 inserted Sections 326(A) and 326(B) in IPC to deal with acid attacks.
    • In July 2022, the Allahabad High Court said that the charge under Section 326A IPC can be framed against the accused even if no grievous hurt has been caused to the acid attack survivor.
      • Grievous hurt to an acid attack survivor is not mandatory in each case.
  • Relief to the acid attack victim —
    • In 2013, the Supreme Court also ruled that victims should receive free medical treatment and minimum compensation of Rs 3 lakh.
      • Section 326(A) states that whoever causes permanent or partial damage shall be punished with minimum 10 years in jail to a life term and a fine up to Rs. 10 Lakh to be given to victim.