HC asks Delhi Police to explore feasibility of a ‘ballistics database’

If created, the court said, the database could immensely help investigations and keep a check on the illegal firearms
The Delhi high court has posted the matter for hearing in April. (Picture for representation only)
The Delhi high court has posted the matter for hearing in April. (Picture for representation only)
Updated on Jan 24, 2022 03:09 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

New Delhi: The Delhi high court has asked the police force to explore the feasibility of maintaining a ‘ballistics database’ to connect each bulletto the weapon it was fired from.

Hearing a 2018 anticipatory bail plea of an accused in an Arms Act case, justice Sanjeev Sachdeva said that the database, if created, could immensely help investigations and keep a check on the illegal firearms. The judge said that a committee constituted by the city police commissioner may consult the technical experts of Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory (CFSL) for the creation of such a database.

“The committee appointed by the police commissioner, may also examine the possibility of creation of a Ballistic Database, where ballistic reports of all firearms, in respect of which licences are issued or which are endorsed on the licenses issued to public, can be stored so that the said database can be accessed in case of an investigation,” the court said in its order on January 10.

In the 2018 anticipatory bail plea hearing, the court is examining the aspect that whenever any weapon is recovered, no fingerprints are taken from the weapon or the bullets/rounds/shells found in the weapon. In 2018, the court had noted the submission of the state’s counsel that there is no specific procedure laid down for investigating officers or other police officers for the same.

During later proceedings, senior police officers had told the court that fingerprints from weapons and/or bullets/rounds/shells are taken on a case to case basis, depending on the facts and circumstances of each case.

Even though the pre-arrest bail plea was later withdrawn after a few dates in 2018, the court continued to examine the aspect and conduct discussions with senior police officials on the issue.

In February 2019, the court had suggested that the city police consider installing electronic sensors in the licensed firearms to monitor its GPS location and when the gun is fired, send alerts including the direction it is pointing and how many rounds were fired. The judge had also asked the city police to take cue from the global alternatives available.

According to a 2019 news report, a Chinese firm, Beijing Bailineng Technology, developed a chip to pinpoint the location of firearms and trigger an alert when guns are taken out of designated areas. The firm had claimed that the chips used China’s BeiDou Navigation Satellite System to send real-time location to a control centre. Authorised handlers of the weapons would also be issued with BeiDou watches which will send alerts if they are separated from their firearms, with the aim of stopping the weapons falling into the hands of criminals, the report had said.

However, the state’s counsel Hirein Sharma informed the court that installing GPS devices in licensed weapons “may not be a feasible option on the basis of the technical, financial and privacy concerns”.

In a status report filed on January 15, the police said, “There are lakhs of different types of licensed weapons in the country and shall be a big challenge to install such type of additional fitment in all licensed firearms.” The report added that no such certified/patent company was found making such type of censors in India.

Senior advocate and criminal lawyer Vikas Pahwa told HT that it is high time that India has a national database for firearms, ammunition and ballistic reports.

“The access to ballistic reports can be of great help in investigations where arms are not connected with the fired bullets and cartridges in the crimes. Arms used in a crime in the past can be matched with the ammunition used again in a subsequent crime. Database can be accessed by the police all over the country. We need to use technology for expediting the process of investigations for an efficient criminal justice system in our country,” Pahwa said.

On January 10, the court noted that the state’s status report is not on record and posted the matter for April.

According to the Union ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), as many as 22,804 new gun licenses with all India permission have been issued by the government between January 2018 and September 2020. An overwhelming majority of these -- 17,905 – was issued to the residents of Jammu and Kashmir.

According to the data, a total of 94,400 arms licences were renewed with all India permission between January 1, 2018, and September 15, 2020, of which 19,238 were in Uttar Pradesh, followed by Jammu and Kashmir (14,172) and Haryana (12,230).

The maximum of 2,435 licenses cancelled nationwide between January 1, 2018, and September 15, 2020, were in Uttar Pradesh (1,911).

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