Makers of prohibited arms illegally and those carrying such guns may soon have to spend the remainder of their life in jail if convicted under a new law proposed by the Union Home Ministry.
According to the draft Arms (Amendment) Bill, anyone possessing more than two licensed guns will have to deposit the third one with authorities as the government is planning to ban the practice of granting multiple licences to an individual.
The Centre is also planning to double the punishments stipulated in the Arms Act, enacted six decades ago, a Home Ministry official said.
The draft of the proposed law covers areas like illegal trafficking of arms, tracking arms and their components from manufacturers to end users, organised crime, organised crime syndicates, and celebratory firing — with varying punishment for these offences.
As per the draft bill, the government is planning to amend Section 25 (1AA) 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 not be 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 wherein militancy had engulfed the state.
Section 25 (6) is being proposed to be incorporated in the amendment under which a minimum punishment of 10 years in prison and a maximum punishment of life imprisonment till death will be prescribed for using “prohibited” arms or ammunition by members of an organised crime syndicate, the official said.
The draft amendments categorise the illegal import of guns and components and their sale and purchase as “illicit trade” and has provisions to send an authorised gun dealer to jail for up to seven years for tampering with the markings on the weapons.
According to the draft, a person can have a maximum of two firearms, as against the present norm of three. Those who own more than two firearms will have to deposit the third one with authorities or authorised gun dealers within 90 days for de-licensing once the amendment is approved by Parliament.
The proposed amendment suggested that only sportspersons can possess a third weapon –.22 calibre rifle only — if they are “a dedicated sportsperson whose participation in shooting sports has been recognised in national or international events in the last two years by the central government”.
The Home Ministry has already discussed the proposed amendments in the Arms Act with the home secretaries and police chiefs of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, and Manipur.
“We will try to introduce the amendment bill in the winter session of Parliament but if not then we will introduce in the next budget session,” another official said.