The proposed amendments to Arms Act stipulates jail term that can go up to life imprisonment for possession of weapons looted “from armed forces or police”, engagement in “organised crime syndicate” or “illicit trafficking”, and rash and negligent use of firearms, the home ministry said in a note detailing the proposed amendments shared with all the stakeholders for public consultation this week.
“Whoever uses firearms for celebratory gunfire or in a rash and negligent manner” shall be punished with two-year imprisonment and a fine up to Rs 1 lakh, the draft amendment bill says.
This category of offense has been included in the draft bill to rein in incidents of celebratory firing resulting in deaths, people aware of the development said. Punishment will not be the same for the four new categories of offense. The bill is likely to be tabled before Parliament in the upcoming session starting from November 18, they said.
The proposed amendment would curtail the number of gun licences one can possess to one from existing three. “Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), no person, other than a person referred to in subsection (3), shall acquire, have in his possession or carry, at any time, more than one firearm,” the draft amendment states.
ET saw a copy of the home ministry’s note. “Any person who has in his possession more than one firearm at the commencement of the Arms (Amendment) Act, 2019, may retain with him any one of such firearms and shall deposit, within one year from such commencement, the remaining firearms with the officer in charge of the nearest police station,” a ministry official said.
The proposed law cautions state governments not to breach the quota of one firearm while granting arms licence on “inheritance or heirloom basis”.
It proposes stricter punishment for violations of Arms Act to minimum seven years from earlier three years and maximum to life imprisonment from the previous seven years, along with a fine.
“Whoever acquires, has in his possession, or carries any prohibited arms or prohibited ammunition in contravention of Section 7 shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years, but which may extend to 14 years,” the draft amendment says.
Earlier, the minimum punishment was five years which may be extended to ten years with a fine.
For weapons stolen or taken away by force from police or armed forces by Naxals, militants in J&K and Northeast insurgents, a jail term of minimum 10 years to maximum life imprisonment with a fine has been prescribed under the Act. Similarly, if any member of an “organized crime syndicate” is found in possession or carries any arms or ammunition in contravention of Arms Act shall be punishable with 10 years’ jail which may extend to life and shall also be liable to fine.
An organised crime syndicate means a group of two or more persons who act, either individually or collectively, as a syndicate to indulge in organised crime.