Menace of illegal firearms affecting right to life, says SC; seeks info from Centre, states on curbing use

NEW DELHI, Apr 13: The Supreme Court on Thursday sought information from the Centre, states and Union Territories on the steps taken to curb the use of illegal firearms, calling it as “menace” affecting the right to life.

A bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna, which was hearing a suo motu case registered by the court, asked the Directors General of Police of the states to furnish data related to cases registered under the Arms Act over the years.

It also asked the Ministry of Home Affairs to file an affidavit indicating steps taken for implementation of the Arms Act and suggestions to strengthen law enforcement.

“This matter is serious as it affects the right to life. Issue notice to all the states and Union Territories indicating the steps taken to deal with the menace of unlicensed firearms and the cases registered over the years. All the DGPs file separate affidavits on these two aspects. Notice be also issued to the Ministry of Home Affairs with regard to implementation of the Act and suggestions to strengthen the law,” the bench said.

The bench posted the matter for further hearing after three weeks.

On March 21, the top court had said the problem which is engaging the Court in the case it has initiated on its own is the phenomenon of use of unlicensed firearms.

It had noted the Director General of Police of Uttar Pradesh has filed an affidavit with regard to use of firearms and cases registered in the state.

The court has appointed senior advocate S Nagamuthu as amicus curiae to assist it in the matter.

On February 13, the top court had taken suo moto cognizance of the issue while dealing with the bail plea of an accused who was booked for alleged use of firearms in Uttar Pradesh.

The top court said the phenomenon of use of unlicenced firearms in serious offences was “very disturbing”.

“Unlike the Constitution of the United States where the right to bear firearms is a fundamental freedom, in the wisdom of our founding fathers, no such right has been conferred on anyone under the Constitution of India,” the bench had said.

The court said it is of the greatest significance to preserve life and resort must not be made to unlicensed firearms.

“In particular, if unlicensed firearms are freely used, this will sound the death knell of rule of law. We deem it appropriate, therefore, to make use of this case to ascertain and do whatever may be necessary so that the problem of unlicensed firearms is firmly dealt with by the authorities,” it said. (PTI)