Military-grade equipment banned for sale to civilians can no longer be bought online in India. The sellers have withdrawn all products, including a device used by terrorists during a deadly attack in Punjab in July 2015, following a report published by Hindustan Times on December 14 last year.
Among the merchandise earlier listed for sale by popular shopping portal Amazon India were night vision telescopic sights for rifles, helmet-mounted night vision goggles, and monocular sights that help in precision shooting even in darkness.
These are all “restricted” items and can be used only by the armed forces, police, and government agencies. Civilians possessing or trading in night vision devices (NVDs) without Union home ministry permission can be prosecuted.
After HT published the report, the sellers on Amazon India quickly withdrew all military-grade night vision sights and rifle scopes.
“Sellers on Amazon.in own their respective products and are responsible for product compliances, as may be applicable. As an intermediary under the Information Technology Act, Amazon.in does take reactive action against sellers who are selling illegal or fake products, as the case may be,” a spokesperson for the company told HT.
A defence ministry official said, “The ministry took note of the HT report and a file was put up before the defence secretary.” It is learnt that the ministry is conducting a probe.
Interestingly, around the year-end, HT found that the devices withdrawn from the Amazon India website had resurfaced on another online store, Cart2India.
On January 2, HT asked Cart2India if it had permission from the government to sell these. The Bengaluru-based company said it would reply within 48 hours and the products completely disappeared from its website in just a few hours. The official reply to HT’s mail, however, didn’t arrive till 4pm on Friday.
Most of the NVDs that were available online till HT carried out the investigation stated they were made in the US. The average prices were four to six times higher than in the US. Some of the high-end products even carried the statutory US government warning: “This item is restricted for sale to the state of California and outside the US.”
NVDs are a part of 428 items classified as ‘restricted’ in the government’s import list.