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The Supreme Court on Tuesday termed possession of unlicensed weapons “a real problem” and said the government has to make it a serious offence.

The court made this observation after receiving responses from a few states on the number of incidents across states involving illegal weapons. On April 13, the court had issued notices to all states and Union territories to ascertain the crimes involving use of unlicensed firearms and steps taken by the respective administrations and police establishments to deal with the menace.

The bench of justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna observed that the crime involving illegal weapons was largely prevalent in the northern states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and others. Among the states which filed their responses, Tamil Nadu was the only exception to have not a single incident of illegal arms.

“This is becoming a real problem,” the bench told advocate Rajat Nair appearing for Centre, while adding, “The government has to make it a serious offence or else invariably you will see people being booked under Arms Act.” The use of illegal or unlicensed arms in commission of crime is punishable under Arms Act with a minimum sentence of three years and maximum sentence of 7 years.

Drawing a comparison with the United States where several instances have emerged of individuals going on a shooting spree in malls and schools resulting in casualties, the bench remarked, “Look at how the US is suffering. There they have a fundamental right to possess arms. Here it is not and still we are suffering. It is a serious affair.”

Nair told the court that a legislative amendment may require consultation with states as law and order is a state subject. The bench wished to know if the scale at which unlicensed weapons were used in northern states prevailed in south and northeast. Senior advocate S Nagamuthu assisting the court as amicus curiae told the court that this could be gathered only after receiving responses from all states/UTs.

While posting the matter to August 7, the bench remarked, “You have to go into the socio-economic reasons why there is demand for such illegal arms.” Nagamuthu assisted by advocate Anish R Shah agreed to make a thorough study in this regard.

The matter was taken up suo moto in a matter from Uttar Pradesh where the court was dealing with a bail petition by one Rajendra Singh involved in murdering a man with an unlicensed gun. His bail plea was rejected by the Allahabad high court against which he approached the top court.


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