December 23rd, 2020
By Rehan Piracha
A first-ever law to regulate sale of acid is set to be tabled in the Punjab provincial assembly in order to prevent acid attacks on women in the province which has seen the highest number of such incidents.
According to Gul Hassan Abbas, Executive Director, Initiatives for Sustainable Development (IFSD), there is no proper law or regulatory framework on sale and purchase of acid in the province.
Giving details of acid attacks in Punjab, he said 460 cases of acid attacks were registered from 2013 to 2019 in the province. In 2019, there were 62 cases of acid attacks in Punjab, he added.
Abbas said the subject of acid, poisons or chemicals is not included in the Federal Legislative List, therefore, the provincial assembly has to legislate on the control of hazardous substances and chemicals. He said the draft Punjab Acid Control Act, 2019 has been vetted by various stakeholders, adding that Punjab Law Minister Basharat Raja has said the proposed law will be tabled in the provincial assembly in the coming session.
Kaneez Fatima, chairperson of Punjab Women Protection Authority, has also announced that the acid control law will be tabled in the provincial assembly soon. The PWPA in collaboration with Ministry of Human Rights and IFSD are developing strategies to address Gender Based Violence in Punjab.
‘Need To Make Acid Dealers Vigilant in Proposed Law’
Speaking to Voicepk.net, Qamar Hanif Ramay, lawyer with the Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell, said the proposed law is a good initiative that attempts to keep restrict easy access to acid which is used for a variety of agricultural and industrial purposes. However, the dealers and traders should also be vigilant so that they don’t sell to any walk-in customer. There should be a mechanism that the dealers and traders could inform law enforcement officials in case of any suspicious customer.
In his opinion, the proposed law will face problems in implementation and enforcement as the office of the deputy commissioner is already overburdened and under resourced. Instead, he pointed out, the proposed law should have set up an authority with a dedicated enforcement squad for implementation of the law.
What’s in the proposed law?
According to the draft copy of the Punjab Acid Control Act, 2019 available with Voicepk.net, the bill would regulate the storage, distribution, sale, and transport of acids and thereby to prevent the abuse and misuse of acids. The propose law will make it mandatory for all acid dealers to get a license from the deputy commissioner of a district for sale and regulation of the hazardous chemical. Any acid dealer who fails to obtain a license will be fined Rs 100,000. The proposed law will also forbid sale of acid to persons below the age of 18 years. The entire stock of acid of a dealer can be confiscated and seized for failure to meet conditions set in the proposed law.
Stocking of acid
The proposed law stipulated that acid shall be stocked in a licensed business premises. All traders of acid shall provide a stock report to the deputy commissioner after every three months. The deputy commissioner will designate an inspector to check stocks of acid dealers.
Identity of buyers
The acid dealers and traders have been bound to keep record of stock sold. The record will include the name and age of the buyer; name of acid; quantity sold; purpose of purchase, and CNIC or passport number of the buyer with his permanent and temporary addresses.
Packaging and label
The draft law calls for proper packaging and labeling of acids. The packaging of acid shall be so designed as to preclude accidental loss of contents and ensure safe handling. No acid can be sold without the packaging and the container being properly labelled in both Urdu and English. The labeling must show the name and concentration of acid along with the word “Dangerous” printed in visible language with the symbol of Danger.
The Government shall make arrangements of public awareness through posters, notice boards, newspapers and electronic media to encourage compliance to the provisions of the act. Besides, the government should raise awareness on the effects of acid attacks on human beings.