ECI directs prompt verification of arms licenses to avoid misuse during elections

Home Secy issues detailed directions for compliance

No conflict between present exercise, CBI probe

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Mar 8: To ensure proper law and order during the ensuing general elections, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has directed for prompt verification of arms licenses issued in Jammu and Kashmir during the period between 2012 and 2018 and accordingly Principal Secretary to Government Home Department has issued a set of instructions to the District Magistrates and police authorities for strict compliance in a time bound manner.
According to the official sources, the matter related to the issuance of arms licenses in the State of Jammu and Kashmir came up for discussion in a meeting taken by the Election Commission of India during its recent visit to the State in the context of ensuing general elections 2019.
Keeping in view indiscriminate issuance of arms licenses within the State of Jammu and Kashmir by certain District Magistrates in the past few years, the Election Commission of India found it appropriate to get verification conducted promptly so as to check misuse of weapons obtained on the basis of such licenses during the forthcoming elections, sources said, adding “the objective behind verification is also aimed at cross-checking the credentials of the persons possessing arms licenses”.
Accordingly, the State Home Department reviewed the matter in the light of the discussions held in the meeting with the ECI and also in the context of the directions issued by the Government in the past.
“Now, with a view to ensure maintenance of law and order in the State particularly during the ensuring general elections 2019, the Principal Secretary to Government, Home Department Shaleen Kabra has issued directions to all the District Magistrates and concerned authorities of the Police Department for strict compliance”, sources said.
The District Magistrates have been asked to furnish the details of the arms licenses issued by their offices for the period 2012 up to July 12, 2018 to the respective SSPs as early as possible. “The concerned SSPs shall, on the receipt of such details, conduct an intensive verification of those licenses which have been issued to the persons residing in their respective jurisdiction within a period of one week in order to ensure adherence to the Election Commission’s instructions”, sources said.
“The concerned SSPs shall also, in respect of those State Subjects who belong to other districts of the State, immediately take up the matter with the SSPs of the domicile districts of the licensees for the purpose of verification of licences”, they said quoting the directions of the Principal Secretary to Government Home Department.
Sources further said, “the district SSPs on receiving the information from District Magistrate shall also verify and reconcile the information with the details of the Arms Licenses maintained in Form No.123 appended to the Jammu and Kashmir Police Rules, 1960 as provided under Rule 537 of the Rules”.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Home Department on the basis of inputs/reports from various agencies particularly CID of J&K Police and Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India regarding indiscriminate issuance of arms licenses within the State of Jammu and Kashmir, in terms of Government Order No.922-Home of 2018 dated July 12, 2018 had ordered that no fresh individual license shall be issued by the District Magistrates of the State till further orders.
The District Magistrates of the State shall take urgent steps to revoke all such individual arms licenses issued to various persons (excluding the personnel belonging to the State Police, Army and Central Armed Paramilitary Forces) as do not meet all the conditions prescribed in Rule 11 and Rule 12 of Arms Rules, 2016″, the Government had directed, adding “the District Magistrates shall direct all such persons whose licenses are revoked to deposit arms and ammunition with the incharge of the nearest Police Station in terms of Section 21 of the Arms Act, 1959”.
They were also directed to ensure strict compliance with the provisions contained in the Arms Rules, 2016 at the stage of renewal of the arms licenses.
Initially, the matter of indiscriminate issuances of arms licenses by several IAS officers in their capacity as District Magistrates was referred to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) for probe but later the case was transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which has obtained relevant record from the Anti-Corruption Bureau and is conducting probe during the past several months.
“There is no conflict between the exercise ordered by the State Home Department on the instructions of the Election Commission of India and the probe being conducted by the Central Bureau of Investigation”, sources said.