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All citizens entitled to possess weapons: HC

Staff Reporter

Under licence, for self defence

MADURAI: Revenue authorities or police officials cannot refuse to issue arms licence by citing the likelihood of law and order problem as all citizens of the country are entitled to possess weapons, under licence, for self-defence unless their antecedents or propensities do not entitle them for the privilege, the Madras High Court has ruled.

Justice D. Hariparanthaman passed the ruling while allowing a writ petition filed by an agriculturist who was denied licence by the Commissioner of Revenue Administration as well as the Theni District Revenue Officer in 2005 and 2004 respectively to possess a double barrel (DBBL) gun.

The judge said that arms licence could be denied only if there was a threat to public peace or public safety which were of much greater magnitude compared to a law and order problem.

He pointed out that the Arms Act, 1959 was enacted to lessen the rigours of the colonial Arms Act, 1878 which made it difficult for law abiding citizens to possess firearms for self-defence whereas terrorists, dacoits and other anti-social or anti-national elements were using not only civilian weapons but also bombs, hand-grenades, Bren-guns, sten-guns, rifles and revolvers of military type.

The 1959 Act was also intended to recognise the right of the State to requisition the services of every citizen during national emergencies.

“The licensees and permit holders of fire arms, Shikaris (hunters), target shooters and rifle-men in general (in appropriate age groups) will be of great service to the country in emergencies, if the Government can properly mobilise and utilise them,” the Act read.

In so far as the present case was concerned, the petitioner S. Rajkapur said that he was residing in a farm house in a forest area in Theni district. He was doing coconut business and also owned a cardamom estate at Sathurangaparai village in Udumbansolai taluk in Kerala.

He wanted to possess a gun for self protection while carrying huge amount of cash and also to protect his crops from wild animals.

Stating that his grandfather and father possessed gun licences during their lifetime, the petitioner said that he now wanted to purchase a DBBL gun from his uncle.

The jurisdictional Tahsildar recommended issuance of gun licence to the petitioner, yet the Commissioner and the DRO rejected his plea on the basis of a police report apprehending law and order problem.

Pointing out that Section 13 (3)(a)(i) of the Arms Act specifically permits grant of licence to protect crops from wild animals, Mr. Justice Hariparanthaman said: “If the family has been in possession of weapon for crop protection, the same should not be denied to the petitioner particularly when there is no criminal case against him.”

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