Twenty-four firearms licenses issued to various individuals in Mumbai, in the past 8-9 years, have been cancelled, while another 575 are likely to be scrapped as the police have started a drive to update the database of firearms licenses.
“We are verifying each and every license before they were fed to a national database,” joint commissioner of police, administration, Anup Kumar Singh, told HT.
A highly placed source in the Mumbai police revealed that around 600 ‘rogue’ firearms license holders have been identified during scrutiny by the Arms and Explosive (licensing) branch. The survey commenced in May this year. There are a total of 15,002 arms licenses issued by the Mumbai police since 1957, when a decision was taken to arm people with threats to their life, or for sports and crop protection purposes.
During the survey, it was noticed that the 600 ‘defaulters’ had not renewed their licenses despite several reminders sent to them in the past 2-3 years. “They were issued show-cause notices to explain the reasons for failing to renew their licenses. We then initiated the required legal action and cancelled their licenses,” said Singh. While licenses for small arms (pistols/revolvers) are renewed every two years, for rifles and other big arms, such as guns and shot guns, the renewal period is three years.
Of the 24 cases where licenses were cancelled, it was found that in some cases, the licensees had not procured weapons even after they were issued licenses. “That is the reason they did not renew the licenses as it is mandatory to display the weapon before the licensing authority at the time of renewal of license,” said Singh. Sources in the police said that in other cases, it was found that the licensees had provided address proof that were found to be non-existing.
“In all likelihood, the remaining 575 licenses will also be revoked as the licensees have failed to renew their licenses [by displaying weapons] as required under the law,” sources said.
As per rule, the licensee is required to buy the firearm (type specified in the license) within two years following the issuance of the license. As import of weapons for private individuals was stopped following the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1984, the licensee has the option to buy the weapon from the Indian Ordinance Factory, an authorised arms dealer, or another licensee who has surrendered his/her license.
Sources claimed that a majority of the remaining defaulters are private security agencies that procured large number of commercial licenses (rifles/guns) for guards. Such licenses were issued by the Deputy Commissioners of Police (DCP) HQ 1. In fact, the practice became so controversial that in 2013 the government withdrew powers from the DCP HQ 1 to issue any firearm license. Licenses for personal protection, sports and crop protection are issued by the police commissioner following clearance from local police stations, special branch and Zonal DCPs, DCP HQ 1 and Joint CP, Administration. Moreover, the practice of allotting firearm licenses to private security agencies was completely done away with in 2013.
Meanwhile, sources said that the police have already registered 14,441 licenses with the National Database for Arms Licenses (NDAL), an apex body formed at the centre in 2013 to create a national database of firearms and monitor their distribution across the country from time to time. “The process of registration of another 561 will be completed soon,” sources said adding that the statistics would be updated as and when the defaulting licenses are cancelled.