Lucknow: Observing that the number of licenced weapons with people in UP is over five times the arms available with police, the Allahabad High Court has restrained the state government from issuing fresh licences.
The Lucknow Bench, comprising Justices Abdul Mateen and Sudhir Kumar Saxena, further directed the UP and Central governments to regulate the system of issuing licences.
The order was issued October 7 in response to a writ petition filed by one Jitendra Singh.
While fixing November 25 as the next date of hearing, the court also directed the UP government to specify the policy of refusing and cancelling the licence on the basis of criminal antecedents.
The Bench said that Principal Secretary (Home) had filed an affidavit which displayed a "very shocking" state of affairs.
The court said that according to Principal Secretary (Home), in UP 11,22,844 arms licences have been issued to 11,02,113 persons and 11,04,701 arms have been issued to the licence holders.
"It is stated in the affidavit that as many as 5,730 persons, against whom criminal trials are pending, are holding arm licences, while 1,061 persons are having licences against whom cases are registered at various police stations," the petitioner said.
The court said that it was submitted that total number of licence holders in the state was far in excess with the arms available to police force.
"Entire 2.13 lakh force of state police has 2.25 lakh weapons with them. Thus, the private citizens possess weapons more than five times to the force of the state. This does not include the figures of unauthorised arms," it said.
"It is further stated quoting figures from NCRB that more than half of the killings from firing in the country were reported from UP," the court said.
The court said that experience show that arms licences were procured merely for flaunting the status as it has become status symbol.
The court also said, "there was no effective mechanism to verify the criminal background otherwise six thousand people would not have been successful in obtaining licences."
There is no guideline to check the need of specific weapon for example in forest bordering area SBBL/DBBL guns may be useful which may not be the case with a businessman.
The court said that it is high time such a study was undertaken.
"We direct the Centre and UP government to come up with a plan to regulate grant of licence in such a manner so as to maintain a balance between weapons available with force and private citizens.
"They should also take into account the specific need, economic status, threat perception, criminal antecedents and possibility of misuse, display of arms in public place in order to create terror for unlawful purposes like, land/house grabbing, grant of contracts," it said.
The court directed UP government to disclose the names of persons having more than three licences apart from the action taken against them.
"The state government will also specify the steps taken against licence holders with criminal case registered/pending against them," it said.
It also directed the state government to inform if it has any plan to reduce the number of arms licence and the methodology.
While listing the matter for November 25, the court directed that till then no fresh licences under the Arms Act would be issued in the state.
However, it specified that the order would not apply to applicants claiming licence under family heirloom policy and to victims of crime having genuine need of weapon in the opinion of concerned district magistrate.