Ace or aspiring, shooters will no longer need to acquire licences for using air guns, air pistols and air rifles for target practice.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed a Delhi high court order, which made it mandatory for marksmen to get licences. The SC order came on a petition filed by the Centre, National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) and manufacturers of toy air guns, rifles, pistols and pellets, challenging the May 2011 HC order.
A Bench headed by Justice P Sathasivam also issued a notice to the Maneka Gandhi-led NGO, People For Animals (PFA), on whose petition the HC order had come. The HC had rejected the NRAI's argument that air guns, air rifles or air pistols used for target practice were not firearms as defined under the Arms Act, 1959, but were toys and as such these did not fall under the purview of the licencing regime.
The PFA had argued that these arms were used for killing or maiming animals and birds.
The high court had quashed a July 13, 1962 government notification that exempted these arms from all regulations and controls under the Arms Act, 1959, including the requirement of a valid licence.
“It is safe to conclude that air guns, air rifles, air pistols are not mere toys…and they are very much subject to the provisions of the Act, being firearms,” the HC had said. The order was coming in the way of shooters' training and many of them had openly spoken against it as only members of a military mess, club or association were treated as exception.
Maintaining that no citizen had a blanket right to carry firearms, the court said nobody, even NRAI members, could claim a right to secure a licence. "They have, at best, a right to apply for, and be considered for the grant of a licence, subject to fulfillment of the prescribed qualifications," the HC had said.