New Delhi: The Delhi High Court was on Wednesday told that improvements have been made regularly to INSAS rifles based on users feedback, availability of better technology and need of the armed forces.
A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath was informed by Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain that the issue of replacing of INSAS rifles with modern firearms in active service in military and the paramilitary have been considered in consultation with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) besides the designing agency.
"The 5.56 mm INSAS rifles were inducted into services in 1992-93 after extensive user trials. Performance of these weapons was validated in different terrains as well as different weather conditions before induction into service..."
"As such, improvements have been made regularly to INSAS rifles based on users feedback, availability of better technology and need of the armed forces," the Centre said.
Jain, assisted by central government standing counsel Jasmeet Singh, also refuted the allegation made in the PIL that several jawans of BSF were killed in an ambush in Dantewara district, Chhattisgarh, due to indigenously-made defective INSAS (an abbreviation of Indian Small System) led to the loss of lives.
"...None of the court of inquiries, conducted in the recent Naxal strike in Dantewara district, Chhattisgarh, has blamed INSAS rifles for the death of soldiers," they said.
The Centre's response came on PIL, filed by Lt Col (retd) Deepak Malhotra who has alleged that because of "bureaucratic red tape" soldiers are made to use "clearly inferior weapon" at the "risk of losing their lives". The Centre also informed the court that the Ministry is in process of procuring assault rifle through global route with transfer technology to Ordnance Factory Board.
"As such, the reply did not mention that the weapon was outdated or defective. The endeavour on the part of the government for ensuring availability of latest and modern weapons to its forces should not be construed in terms of the present weapon being held as defective," it added.
Taking note of the Centre's submission, the court asked the petitioner's counsel to take instruction whether the petition can be closed as the issues has been considered by the government. To which, the counsel sought time to take instruction.
The court has fixed the matter for August 20.
Besides seeking a direction to the MoD to withdraw INSAS rifles from active service and replace with suitable modern firearm in a time-bound manner, the petition has also urged the high court to issue directions to the MoD to produce the records pertaining to the long-pending decision to replace "defective" INSAS rifles.
"This is a case of typical bureaucratic red tapism which has repeatedly resulted in death and injury to the brave jawans of the Indian Army and paramilitary services," the PIL has said, adding that despite knowing for several years that INSAS rifles are of defective design and metallurgy, the bureaucratic system has delayed their replacement.
The INSAS is a family of infantry arms consisting of an assault rifle and a light machine gun (LMG).
The petition has claimed that the "elite army units" have rejected INSAS and said that plans to replace them are pending in the desks of the Ministries of Home and Defence.