The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has conducted extensive raids in Jammu and Kashmir in connection with a case of alleged granting of arms licenses to ineligible people. The agency said that “bulk issuance of arms licences" in J&K between 2012 and 2016 saw over 2.78 lakh arms licences issued to “non-entitled persons". It said that inquiries had pointed to the role of certain gun dealers who “in connivance with the public servants… had allegedly issued such illegal arms licenses". So, who can get an arms licence in India and what are the rules governing the process of obtaining one?
Who Can Issue An Arms Licence In India?
Licence for specified categories of weapons for personal use are granted in India according to the provisions of the Arms Act, 1959, and the Arms Rules, 2016. The Centre has stated that arms licences with all India validity for restricted category of weapons is issued by the Union Home Ministry while the nod for “permissible category of arms" has to be sought from the state government/Union Territory concerned.
Who Is Eligible For An Arms Licence?
The Arms Act and the Arms Rules, 2016 — which replaced the Arms Rules, 1962 — are designed to “curb illegal weapons and violence using illegal weapons". Section 3 of the Arms Act prohibits an individual from acquiring or bearing arms “unless he holds in this behalf a licence issued in accordance with the provisions" of the Act and the rules laid down under it.
To be eligible for an arms licence, the applicant has to prove that there is a “genuine requirement to protect his life and/or property" owing to the “very nature of his business, profession, job or otherwise". This rule extends to those who may seek a weapon for protecting their crops.
Further, a licence may be issued to a “dedicated sportsperson" who can establish active membership for the two years before making the application, “of a shooting club or a rifle association… who wants to pursue sport
shooting for target practice in a structured learning process".
Finally, licence can also be ought by “any person in service or having served in the defence forces, Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) or state police force and has genuine requirement to protect his life and/or property".
What Is All-India Validity?
The Arms Rule, 2016, state that the District Magistrate is a competent authority to grant “all-India validity" for arms to specific categories of individuals. These include, Union ministers or Members of Parliament, defence personnel and members of CAPFs and officers of all-India services like IAS, IPS, etc. Also, officers in the government or government-sector undertakings or public sector undertakings who can be posted anywhere in India can receive a nod for all India validity for weapons as can specified “dedicated sportspersons".
For those who do not belong to any of these categories, the rules say that “the powers to grant all-India validity are with the state government", which can take a call after an application is forwarded by a district magistrate.
What Kind Of Weapons Does The Licence Cover?
The Arms Act distinguishes between two categories of firearms: prohibited bore and non-prohibited bore. The bore indicates the thickness, or diameter, of the bullet and non-prohibited bore weapons in India include weapons of .35, .32, .22 and .380 calibre, which is “usually expressed in hundredths of an inch (.22 cal) or in millimetres (9mm)".
Prohibited bore weapons include pistols (9mm) and firearms of .38, .455 calibre and .303 rifles. In India, prohibited weapons include semi-automatic and fully automatic guns. The Arms Act classifies ‘prohibited arms’ as those in which, “if pressure is applied to the trigger, missiles
continue to be discharged until pressure is removed from the trigger or the magazine containing the missiles is empty" and includes artillery, anti-aircraft and anti-tank firearms.
How Many Licensed Weapons Are There In India?
The Arms Act had laid down that an individual can hold a maximum of three licensed firearms. However, the Arms (Amendment) Act, 2019, brought down to two the number of licensed weapons that an individual is entitled to hold. Further, it was also laid down that “no licence is required for Indian citizens for acquisition, possession of small arms falling under the category of curio".
According to the reply to a question in Parliament, more than 36.6 lakh arms licences had been registered on the government’s National Data Base of Arms Licence-Arms Licence System (NDAL-ALIS) portal till July 2019.
Further, the Centre told Parliament last year that the number of licences with all-India permission issued between January 2018 and September 2020 stood at 22,804 with J&K alone accounting for 17,905, or close to four out of five, of such licences.