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Indian court demands action on acid attacks

India's top court has criticised the government for failing to formulate a policy to reduce acid attacks against women.

NEW DELHI // India's top court has criticised the government for failing to formulate a policy to reduce acid attacks against women.

The Supreme Court yesterday rebuked the government of Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, for failing to consider regulating the sale of acid. The attacks, which are often carried out by jilted boyfriends or relatives, leave the victims permanently disfigured.

"Girls are dying every day and the central government and state governments are not serious," said justices RM Lodha and SJ Mukhopadhaya.

According to the London-based charity Acid Survivors Trust International, about 1,500 acid attacks are reported globally each year, while groups in India have said the problem is growing locally.

The judges demanded that the cabinet prepare a new scheme to curb attacks and provide support to victims by July 16 or they would pass a legally binding order that compelled the government to take action.

An acid called "Tezaab", which is designed to clean rusted tools, is commonly used in assaults.

After a gang-rape in New Delhi in December, parliament voted to toughen laws to protect women, which included doubling the minimum prison sentence for gang-rape to 20 years.

But parliament voted against increasing the punishment for acid attackers, who can be jailed for eight to 12 years - depending on the injuries inflicted - but remain eligible for bail.

In 2011, Pakistan adopted legislation that increased the punishment for acid attackers to between 14 years and life in jail and a minimum fine of one million Pakistan rupees (Dh36,700).

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