Author- Anshika Sharma
The recent arms amendment bill, 2019 was introduced in the Lok Sabha by Amit Shah, the minister of Home Affairs. This amendment bill seeks to decrease the number of firearms which can be owned per person and has also increased penalties for certain offences. It has also introduced new categories of offences. The statement of objectives and the reasons stated by the Bill noted that the law agencies saw an increasing connection between the possession of firearms and the criminal activities related to it. This bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on the 29th of November and passed on the 10th of December, 2019.
The following provisions were enlisted:
- LICENSE FOR ACQUIRING FIREARMS:
According to the act, in order to possess, acquire or carry any firearm, a person is supposed to obtain a license for the same. A person can obtain the license for up to three firearms with exceptions like the licensed firearm dealers. However, the bill has reduced this number from three to one, .i.e. a person can possess only one firearm which would also include the licenses given on an inheritance or heirloom basis. A period of one year is specified under the bill during which any person having any excess firearms is supposed to deposit the same to the officer-in-charge at the nearest police station or to a licensed firearm dealer. If the owner of the firearm belongs to the armed forces, the firearm should be deposited in the armoury unit. The firearms which are in excess will be delicensed within a period of 90 days from the expiry of the one-year period. The bill has also increased the validity of firearm licenses to up to 5 years which was earlier than three years.
- BAN ON FIREARMS:
As per the Act, the transfer, conversion, sale, manufacture, or testing of the firearm is banned if one is found without a license. It also prohibits the shortening of the firearm barrel or the conversion of imitation firearms to firearms without a license. The bill has further prohibited the obtaining or procuring of unlicensed firearms and their conversion from one category to the other without a license. The members of the rifle associations and clubs can use any firearm for the target practice instead of only using the 22 bore rifles or air rifles.
- INCREASE IN THE PUNISHMENT:
The bill has amended the punishment with respect to several cases. The act has specified the punishment for any dealing n un- license firearms, their manufacture, conversion or procurement, shortening or conversion without a license, and the import and export of banned firearms. Earlier the punishment for these offences lied between three years and seven years, along with a fine. However, the bill has increased the punishment to seven years and life imprisonment along with a fine.
According to the Act, any person caught with the possession of any prohibited ammunition without a license could be imprisoned for a period ranging from 5 to 10 years along with a fine. However, the bill has increased the punishment with imprisonment between seven and 14 years, along with a fine. For recorded reasons, the Court can impose punishment of fewer than seven years. The punishment of death or imprisonment along with a fine has been revised by the Court in cases where the use of prohibited firearms results in the death of a person.
- NEW OFFENCES:;
The bill has also added a few new offences. These would include:
- Forcefully taking the firearms from the police or the armed forces would result in imprisonment up to 10 years or life imprisonment, along with a fine,
- Use of any firearm in celebratory gunfire poses a threat to human life and the personal safety of others, which is punishable with imprisonment or a fine, or both. Celebratory gunfire is the use of firearms for religious purposes, in public gatherings, marriages, or other functions.
The crimes and the offences committed by the organised crime syndicates and illicit trafficking have also been defined in the new amendment bill. Organised crime is defined as the continuous unlawful activities which are committed by a person on his behalf alone or as a part of any organisation, by using unlawful means, such as coercion or violence to gain economic and other benefits and an organised crime syndicate is referred to as a crime which has been committed by two or more people as an organised crime. Possession of any firearm by any organisation or syndicate is a violation of the Act and will result in imprisonment up to 10years or life imprisonment along with a fine. This punishment will also be applicable to the people who are dealing in unlicensed firearms, conversion, importing or exporting on behalf of the organisation or syndicate.
The Bill defines illicit trafficking to include the trade, acquisition, sale of firearms or ammunition into or out of India where the firearms are either not marked as per the Act or violate the provisions of the Act. Illicit trafficking is punishable with imprisonment between 10 years and life, along with a fine.
- TRACKING OF FIREARMS:
The central government may make rules to track firearms and ammunition from manufacturer to purchaser to detect, investigate, and analyze illicit manufacturing and trafficking.
WHAT WAS THE NEED FOR THE AMENDMENT?
The famous case of Dilip Sitaram vs the state was Rajasthan was one of the leading instances that lead to the amendment of the Act. According to the facts the petitioner of the case was alleged to be in possession of a knife. Further, the Bar, considering the submissions also came to the conclusion that it was a bailable offence as per section 37 of the Act and the Court, therefore, ordered the release of the petitioner Dilip Sitaram. This clearly shows us that the rules and the regulations mentioned under the Act were not stringent enough and it was possible for any ordinary man to get away with such an offence by paying a handsome amount of money for the bail. Thus, stringent laws and rules were very much required and thus the amendment took place.
I also personally believe that stringent laws and regulations were much needed for the safety and the betterment of all the citizens as otherwise it would result in an increase in the criminal cases with the criminals not being punished for their crimes and would get away easily. This would not serve right justice to the ordinary man and thus was much required.
Author Anshika Sharma is a second-year law student from ILS LAW COLLEGE, PUNE. She strongly believes that such a decision was very much needed to provide security for any organization and treat everyone with equity and justice.