This article is authored by Sanskriti Goel , a 1st year law student from Chanderprabhu Jain College of Higher Studies and School of law, GGSIPU. This article discusses the laws regarding the possession of arms and ammunition by individuals in India along with special emphasis on key provisions of the act.
The Arms Act, 1959 deals with acquisition, possession, manufacture, sale, import, export, licensing, and transport of arms and ammunition. The act is divided into six chapters with the purpose of restraining the manufacturing and use of illegal weapons and to deter violence that might occur from the use of these illegal weapons. The objective of the act as enshrined in its preamble is “to consolidate and amend the law relating to arms and ammunition”. The act makes carrying of arms and ammunition without a valid license a criminal offence.
The Arms Act during the British Rule
After witnessing the revolt of 1857 against the British administration, Lord Lytton passed the Indian Arms Act, 1879. According to this act, Indians were prohibited from keeping in their possession any arms without a valid license. Interestingly, the act was applicable only to Indians and none of the British residing in India. The reason behind this was to put down any possible rebellion by Indian revolutionaries.
Important Definitions under Section 2 of the Act
- The definition of ‘license’ was incorporated in the act through an amendment in 2019. In the Arms Act, 1959 , in section 2, after clause (e), clause (ea) has been inserted which states the following:-
“licence” means a licence issued in accordance with the provisions of this Act and rules made thereunder and includes a licence issued in the electronic form.
- The clause (f) of section 2 of The Arms Act, 1959 states that “licensing authority” means an officer or authority empowered to grant or renew licences under rules made under this Act, and includes the Government.
- The clause (h) of section 2 of The Arms Act, 1959 states that “prohibited ammunition” means any ammunition containing, or designed or adapted to contain, any noxious liquid, gas or other such thing, and includes rockets, bombs, grenades, shells, missiles, articles designed for torpedo service and submarine mining and such other articles as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify to be prohibited ammunition.
- The clause (i) of section 2 of The Arms Act, 1959
defines “prohibited arms” as—
(i) firearms so designed or adapted that, 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, or
(ii) weapons of any description designed or adapted for the discharge of any noxious liquid, gas or other such thing, and includes artillery, anti-aircraft and anti-tank firearms and such other arms as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify to be prohibited arms.
Section 3: License for a Acquisition and Possession of Firearms and Ammunation
This section states that—
- No person shall acquire, have in his possession, or carry any firearm or ammunition unless he holds in this behalf a licence issued in accordance with the provisions of this Act and the rules made thereunder.
The sub-section also states that a person who does not hold a licence himself may carry any firearm or ammunition under the written authority of the holder of the licence for repair or for renewal of the licence or for use by such holder.
- This sub-section has been amended by The Arms (Amendment) Act, 2019 and states that no person, other than a person referred to in sub-section (3), shall acquire, have in his possession or carry, at any time, more than two firearms and if a person possesses more than two firearms at the commencement of the Arms (Amendment) Act, 2019, he shall keep any of the two arms of his choice with him and deposit the rest with the officer in charge of the nearest police station or with a licensed dealer within a period of one year. If the person belongs to armed forces then he must deposit the remaining firearms in the unit armoury and after which it shall be delicensed from the ninety days of the expiry of the aforesaid one year.
- Nothing contained in sub-section (2) shall apply to any dealer in firearms or to any member of a rifle club or rifle association licensed or recognised by the Central Government using a point 22 bore rifle or an air rifle for target practice.
Section 25: Punishment
Sub-section (1) of section 25 states that whoever, manufactures, obtains, procures, sells, transfers, converts, repairs, tests or proves, or exposes or offers for sale or transfer, or has in his possession for sale, transfer, conversion, repair, test or proof, any arms or ammunition shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.
Rachelle Joel Oseran v. The State of Maharashtra & Ors. [Criminal Writ Petition No. 323 of 2017]
The petitioner was a citizen of Israel. She came to India for an educational trip with her friend and travel agent named Miss Hillary Weiss. The petitioner was lent a bag from Miss Hillary to keep the stuff, and the bag that Miss Hillary gave to the petitioner belonged to Hillary’s husband, Mr Dani Weiss, who served in the Israeli Army. When the luggage underwent the scanning process, a live cartridge was found in the baggage, after which she was arrested and taken to the police station.
The Bombay High Court observed that the essential conditions under the section 3 and section 25 of the Arms Act, 1959 is the conscious possession of the arm. The petitioner was held not guilty on the ground that the petitioner had no knowledge of the cartridge which was found in her luggage.
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