Parliament on Tuesday approved a legislation providing for a maximum punishment of life imprisonment for manufacturing and carrying illegal arms. The Arms (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which also has a provision for imprisonment of two years or fine which may extend to Rs 1 lakh or both for those using firearms in a rash or negligent manner in celebratory gunfire, endangering human life or personal safety of others, was passed by a voice vote in Rajya Sabha. Several amendments moved by opposition parties were rejected. The Bill was passed in Lok Sabha on Monday. Replying to a debate on the bill in the Upper House, Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy said heirloom or heritage weapons could be kept if they have been de-activated. This was a demand made by several MPs from both the opposition as well as treasury benches.
"The heritage weapons which have been inherited can be kept after de-activation," Reddy said amid thumping of desks.
Earlier, moving the bill, Reddy said effective control over arms and ammunition is very important for safety and security in the country.
"It is for national security that we have brought in this legislation. Illegal manufacturing of arms is going on in some places like small scale industry. We are proposing stringent punishments for people involved in such acts," the minister said.
The bill for changes in the six-decade-old Arms Act has also accorded special status to sportsperson who need firearms and ammunition for practice and participating in tournaments. As per the bill, those who own more than two firearms will have to deposit the third one with police station concerned or authorised gun dealers. The new legislation has a provision for life imprisonment for those who snatch or loot arms and ammunition from police or other security forces.
The Bill amends a Section of the Arms Act, 1959, to give punishment from the usual life term of 14 years to "imprisonment for the remainder of that person's life" for manufacturing, selling, repairing and possessing "prohibited" arms. The minimum punishment under this section will be 14 years. Under the present law, the offence invites imprisonment of not less than seven years but may extend to life imprisonment -- mostly up to 14 years.
According to an estimate, India has a total of around 35 lakh gun licences. Thirteen lakh people have licences to carry weapons in Uttar Pradesh, followed by militancy-hit Jammu and Kashmir, where 3.7 lakh people possess arms licences, most of which were taken in the name of personal security. Punjab, which witnessed terrorism in 1980s and 1990s, has around 3.6 lakh active gun licences, most of which were issued during the two decades of strife.