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Arms Amendment Bill 2019: Everything you need to know!

The new Arms bill proposes jail term between 7-14 years and fine for acquisition, possession or carrying of prohibited ammunition without a license.

Dec 11, 2019 11:38 IST
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The Parliament has passed a bill that proposes maximum punishment of life imprisonment for possession and manufacturing of illegal weapons. The Arms (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed by the Rajya Sabha on December 10 and by the Lok Sabha on December 9, 2019.

The bill proposes stringent punishment to those possessing illegal arms and those indulging in a rash or negligent celebratory gunfire, endangering the life and personal safety of others. The bill makes the offence punishable with a jail term up to two years or fine up to Rs one lakh or both. 

The bill also proposes maximum punishment of life in jail for the makers of illegal arms if convicted.

Significance

The Arms (Amendment) Bill, 2019 has been introduced to control the use and possession of weapons in the country, to reduce their rash and illegal usage, which can endanger another human being.

The Arms (Amendment) Bill, 2019: Key Features

• The bill seeks to amend the Arms Act, 1959, to reduce the number of licensed firearms allowed per person and increase punishment for certain offences under the Act. The bill also introduces new categories of offences. 

• Under the Arms Act, 1959, a license is required to acquire, possess, or carry any firearm. The act allowed a person to obtain a license for up to three firearms. The bill reduces the number of allowed firearms from three to one. 

• The bill proposes one year's time to deposit extra firearms with the officer-in-charge at the nearest police station or with a licensed arms dealer. In case the owner of the excess firearm is an armed forces member, he can deposit it with the unit armoury. The extra firearm will be delicensed within 90 days from the expiry of the one-year period.

Further, the new arms bill increases the duration of the validity of a firearm license from three years to five years.

•  Besides, the Arms Act bans use, transfer, conversion, testing, proofing, manufacture or sale of firearms without a licence and prohibits the shortening of firearm barrel or conversion of imitation firearms into firearms without a license. The arms bill additionally bans the procurement of un-licensed firearms and the conversion of one category of firearms to another without a license. 

• The bill, however, accords special status to a sportsperson who need firearms and ammunition for practice and participating in tournaments. The bill allows members of rifle clubs or associations to use any firearm for target practice instead of only point 22 bore rifles or air rifles. 
 
Penalty

The new arms bill has increased the punishment specified under the Arms Act, 1959 for the below offences to a jail term of either seven 7 years or life imprisonment along with a fine.

(i) Dealing in un-licensed firearms, including their manufacture, procurement, sale, transfer and conversion.

(ii) Shortening or conversion of a firearm without a licence.

(iii) Import or export of banned firearms.

The Arms act proposed jail term between 5-10 years and a fine for acquisition, possession or carrying of prohibited ammunition without a license. The bill has increased the punishment to 7-14 years of jail term and fine. However, any court can impose a punishment of less than seven years for the above offences with recorded reasons. 

Further, the arms act proposes minimum punishment of 7 years of jail term and maximum punishment of life imprisonment along with fine for dealing with prohibited firearms including their manufacture, sale and repair without a license. The new bill has increased the minimum punishment to 10 years.

The bill has also revised the punishment accorded for cases in which the usage of prohibited arms results in the death of a person from the existing punishment of death to death or life imprisonment, with fine. 

The bill has added new offences that have been made punishable with jail term and fine. These offences include:

(i) Forcefully taking a firearm from police or armed forces. The bill proposes imprisonment between 10 years and life imprisonment for the offence along with a fine.

(ii) Using firearms in celebratory gunfire in public gatherings such as religious places, marriages or other functions, which endangers human life or personal safety of others. The bill has made the offence punishable with imprisonment up to two years or fine of up to Rs one lakh or both. 

The bill also amends Section 25 (1AA) of the Arms Act and proposes minimum punishment of 14 years and maximum punishment of life imprisonment for those who snatch or loot arms and ammunition from police or defence forces. Under the current act, the offence invites imprisonment of not less than seven years and maximum punishment of life imprisonment, mostly up to 14 years.

Background

The Arms (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced in the Lok Sabha by Union Home Minister Amit Shah on November 29, 2019. The bill was passed without any amendment. The opposition had proposed several amendments to the bill, which were rejected. 

India currently has around 35 lakh gun licenses. Uttar Pradesh with 13 lakh gun license tops the list, followed by Jammu and Kashmir where 3.7 lakh people possess arms licences, most of which were taken in the name of personal security. The state of Punjab also has around 3.6 lakh active gun licences, most of which were issued between the 1980s and 1990s, during the peak of terrorism in the state.

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