How is the sale of acid regulated in India?

Last updated on May 11, 2022

The sale of acid in India is governed by two levels of regulatory mechanisms:

State-level Rules framed by the respective State and UT Governments

Various state and Union Territory governments have framed rules for the sale of acid,(( These rules have been framed under Section 2 of the Poisons Act, 1919, or under state-specific statutes (in the case of Chhattisgarh).)) including Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Karnataka,  Tripura, and Himachal Pradesh. These rules are broadly similar, and prescribe various requirements for shopkeepers selling acid:

  1. Shopkeepers can only sell acid, or keep the same for sale, if they have a license issued by the relevant licensing authority. This may mean the District Magistrate, or any other officer appointed by the state government.
  2. In case a shopkeepers’ license becomes invalid, they must sell the acid off to another license holder within 3 months. After this period, the licensing authority has to remove and destroy it.
  3. Shopkeepers must exhibit a copy of the sale of acid rules of that state  at their place of business.
  4. Shopkeepers must sell acid only from the premises that have been specified in the license. For example, if the acid can only be sold by a shopkeeper in one of his shops and not the others that are not mentioned in the license.
  5. Shopkeepers must only sell acid to persons personally known to them, or those who produce a photo identity card with their address and substantiate the same with a legally valid address proof like an Aadhar card.
  6. Shopkeepers must sell acid only after ascertaining the name, phone number, address, and the purpose for buying acid of the purchaser. They must maintain a register with the prescribed details of the acid sale transactions, including the name of the acid, quantity sold etc.
  7. Shopkeepers must not sell acid to persons below 18 years of age.
  8. Shopkeepers must store acid securely in a box/ room etc., with the word ‘poison’ marking the same, and ensure that only acid is stored there. They must sell poison only after securely packing and labeling the same.

If a shopkeeper does not follow these rules for the first time, the punishment is a jail term for up to 3 months, or with a fine of up to Rupees 500, or with both.(( Section 2 and 6, The Poisons Act, 1919; Section 15, the Chhattisgarh Regulation, Prohibition, Sale and use of Acid Act, 2013.)) For repeating the crime, the punishment is a jail term of up to 6 months, or with a fine of Rupees 1000, or with both. Hence, a criminal complaint or FIR can be filed against them for the illegal sale of acid. Such acid which is illegally stored will also be confiscated from the shopkeeper.(( Section 6(2), the Poisons Act, 1919.))

The Government of India has also framed Model Rules (the Poisons Possession and Sale Rules, 2013) for states and UTs to refer to while framing their respective rules. The Supreme Court has mandated states to make their rules as stringent as these Model rules.(( Laxmi v Union of India and Others, (2014) 4 SCC 427 [7].)) Further, the Court has repeatedly urged all states and UTs to frame rules to regulate the sale of acid and other corrosive substances,(( Laxmi v. Union of India and Others, (2016) 3 SCC 669, order dated 11/2/2011; Id; Laxmi v. Union of India and Others, (2016) 3 SCC 669, order dated 10/4/2015.)) and ensure the proper implementation of the same.(( Parivartan Kendra v. Union of India and others, (2016) 3 SCC 571 [12], [13].))

Rules by the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court gave guidelines about the sale of acid, to be followed in states which did not have state rules for sale of acid.(( Laxmi v. Union of India and Others, (2014) 4 SCC 427 [9]-[11].)) Under these guidelines, the shopkeepers must follow the following regulations:

  • They can only undertake over-the-counter sale of acid, if they maintain a register with the details of the buyer, their address, and the quantity sold.
  • They must only sell acid after the buyer shows a government issued photo ID with the address of the person, and specifies their reason for buying the acid.
  • They must declare their stocks of acid within 15 days to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) of the district.
  • They must not sell acid to minors.

Under these Court guidelines, a person can also complain to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) of the district as they have a responsibility to ensure the guidelines are followed and can levy fines on shopkeepers breaching the rules given above.

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