The most common crime reported at Delhi airports after passport forgery is that of passengers carrying bullets in their baggage. Last year, the Delhi Police registered 116 cases under the Arms Act at the Indira Gandhi International airport.
Barring four cases in which a pistol was recovered, police said in most instances the passenger forgot to remove bullets from their bags and brought them to the airport. Some of them also said that they had borrowed the bag from their relatives and friends, who had licenced weapons.
Police sources said that incidents of passengers accidentally carrying bullets are reported almost once every two-three days. In 2015, there were 129 cases.
In such cases, once the bullets are detected, the passengers most of whom were travelling abroad were stopped from flying and arrested. Most of the arrested people, who are foreigners, told police that they had inadvertently carried the bullets or forgotten to remove it while packing.
Following numerous cases of bullets detected in bags by the X-Ray airport scanners, last year the Delhi police approached the Delhi high court seeking relief for passengers caught with bullets. “Carrying bullets is not a security threat. Most people, especially foreigners are not even aware of the laws because carrying bullets in their home country is legal. But today the law is such that we have to register an FIR under the Arms Act. The person has to be arrested,” said a senior officer.
This year, till February 14, there were 8 such cases but not a single pistol was found in any case. According to civil aviation rules, a passenger is allowed to carry licensed firearms after declaring it in his registered baggage.
A senior police officer explained the problem, “We face difficulties when foreigners come to India carrying bullets and sometimes pistol too. It is legal in their countries so they are allowed to carry it. The arms and ammunition are detected when they take a domestic flight after landing the country. We know they are not criminals but have no option but to detain them and register a case.”
In March 2015, Delhi’s top gangster Neeraj Bawana’s mother and brother were also caught at the airport when the X Ray baggage scanner found a magazine with two live cartridges in their bag. The two told police that they did not check the bag, which had not been used for long and had picked it from their locker.
Some years ago, a pilot flying a senior politician was also detained at the Delhi airport when a bullet was found inside his baggage. The Canadian origin pilot, who had accidentally carried the bullet in his bag while entering the country, failed to remove it while leaving for Lucknow in a chartered flight.
Police sources said most cases under the Arms Act result in acquittal.
“In more than 90% cases, the passengers have licences back home. A bullet in itself is not a security threat so during trial the court also takes that into consideration. There are only a handful of cases, when people try to smuggle country made pistols,” said a senior officer.