Taking cognisance of a large number of licenced weapons falling into the hands of criminals, particularly in Rajasthan and Punjab, the UPA government has finally decided to amend the Arms Act, 1959 to plug loopholes in the law.
The Cabinet on July 15 approved an amendment to Section 13 of the act making it mandatory for the police to file verification for issuance of an arms licence within 60 days. It also approved deletion of Section 13(2A) that was being misused for issuing licences without verifying antecedents of applicants.
The amendment comes months after the Centre told the Supreme Court it had issued detailed guidelines for issuance, renewal and transfer of arms licences. It had also asked the states to dispense with Section 13(2A), which empowered authorities to grant arms licences without waiting for police verification.
HT first reported on September 5, 2007 that army officers had been selling their personal weapons illegally in the grey market in Rajasthan. Thereafter advocate Arvind Kumar Sharma had filed a PIL seeking a CBI probe into the gunrunning scandal, allegedly involving the army and Rajasthan government officials.
Responding to the PIL, the Union home ministry told the court it had written to states and union territories to ensure strict compliance of the rules.
The proposed amendments would obviate chances of arms licences being issued to persons with criminal background.
Earlier, admitting irregularities in issuing arms licences, the Centre had instructed state officers not to delegate powers given to them under the act to any other officer. It requested state governments to advise their deputy commissioners or collectors to follow scrupulously the provisions of the Arms Act.
The Rajasthan government has admitted before SC irregularities in 325 cases, out of which 227 licences had been cancelled and 98 were under review.