The Indian Parliament passed the Arms Act, 1959, with the sole intention of
consolidating and amending the laws governing arms and ammunition. This was
absolutely necessary to deal with the threat posed by people who carried illegal
weapons that could be used for criminal acts to cause violence in society.As
stated explicitly in Chapter II of the same, the Act aims to be as comprehensive
as possible to cover all aspects relating to the acquisition, possession,
manufacture, sale, import, export, and transportation of arms and ammunition.
In addition, the provisions for arrest, search, and seizure, as well as
detention orders, are detailed in Chapter IV of the Act, which explains the
powers and procedures that the government and other officials can use to
regulate the use and possession of arms and ammunition in India.
History of the Arms Act
The sepoy mutiny of 1857 was the very first instance in which Indians used guns
to cause alarm among the British, who were in power at the time.The British
introduced the infamous Enfield rifle to the Indian sepoys for use in this
unsettling event during colonial times.However, in order for the sepoys to use
the rifle, they had to bite off the greased cartridges made of pig and cow lard.
This was a strategy used to make fun of Muslims' and Hindus' religious beliefs,
and it led to a lot of violence and unhappiness among the Indian people.As a
result, the sepoys gained momentum to band together and launch a violent revolt
against British officials.
The English, on understanding the speed with which the Indians had the option to
set their disparities to the side and hold hands to battle against their
mistreatment concluded that the best way to forestall any future mass uprisings
against them was to lay out a Demonstration that confined the Indians from
having any arms.The Indian Arms Act of 1878 was the result of this.This Act said
that only Indians could have arms if they had a proper license or permission
During Lord Lytton's tenure as Viceroy of India at the time, this Act further
regulated the manufacture, sale, possession, and carrying of firearms.
The fact that Europeans were conveniently exempt from the Act's provisions while
Indians were subject to severe penalties for possessing any type of weapon
demonstrated the Act's hypocrisy.
The Indian Arms Act of 1959, enacted by the Indian government after
independence, recognized that certain law-abiding citizens must own and use
firearms for sports, crop protection, and self-defense. The 1962 Arms Rules came
after this Act.
The Arms Act of 1959's goals and scope According to the preamble, the Act's goal
is to "consolidate and amend the law relating to arms and ammunition." The
primary objective of this Act is to regulate and limit the illegal circulation
of weapons and ammunition.It stipulates the procedure for obtaining licenses for
certain categories of weapons or ammunition and prohibits civilian use of
dangerous weapons. This Act applies to India as a whole.
Additionally, the people's right to keep and bear arms has been recognized as a
legal right by this Act.It was realized that granting them access to certain
weapons and ammunition is necessary in certain circumstances, such as
self-defense or when there is a serious threat to life or property.
Important terms from the Arms Act of 1959: "Ammunition" means things used to
shoot guns. According to Section 2(b) of this Act, the term "ammunition"
articles used to contain any explosives, fulminating or fissionable material,
noxious liquid or gas, or other things that can or cannot be used with firearms,
charges for firearms and their accessories, fuses or friction tubes,
manufacturing machinery or parts of ammunition, and any other ingredients
specified by the Central government. rockets, bombs, grenades, shells, or
missiles. articles used in torpedo service and submarine mining.
Articles designed as weapons for offense or defense are considered arms
according to Section 2(c)'s definition of the term. It includes weapons-making
machinery and components, as well as any other sharp or deadly weapons. However,
it excludes the following:
Lathi and walking sticks, for example, are examples of items made solely for
domestic or agricultural use. Weapons that can only be used as toys or cannot be
made into weapons that are usable also fall into this category.
Firearms The term "firearms" is defined in Section 2(e) as "arms designed to
discharge a projectile or projectiles through an explosion or any other form of
Artillery, hand grenades, riot pistols, or weapons that can shoot noxious gases
or liquids, accessories for firearms that reduce the noise or flash they make,
manufacturing equipment or firearm parts, and firearm transport vehicles,
platforms, and appliances.
Provision for licenses
Obtaining an arms license is not a simple process. Indian firearm laws are among
the strictest in the world, in contrast to those in the United States, where the
right to bear arms is protected by the constitution. Due to the numerous steps
required to satisfy the authorities that a person is eligible to possess a
firearm, obtaining a license to possess a firearm can take at least a year.
A valid license issued in accordance with the Act's provisions is required to be
in possession of any firearm or ammunition, according to Section 3 of the Act.
Individuals are permitted to keep no more than three firearms under the 1959
act. Within 90 days of the Act's commencement, any excess must be deposited at
the closest police station.
The appropriate licensing authority must be contacted for an arms license
application that includes all required documentation and fees.21 years old is
the minimum age required to be eligible to own a firearm. However, in the case
of a "junior target shooter," a person under the age of 16 is permitted to own a
Documents such as identity proof, address proof, proof of age and education,
four passport-sized photographs, income tax returns for the last three years, a
character certificate, and certificates of physical and mental health must be
submitted with an individual's license application.
A person must demonstrate an imminent threat to life in order to obtain a
self-defense license. However, there is also the possibility of wild animals.
The individual is subjected to a two-month background check by the police, which
includes an interview period with the individual's family and neighbors to
assess his or her nature—whether he or she is aggressive or suppressive, has a
criminal history of domestic violence or aggression, etc.
Finally, licensing authorities interview the applicant and decide whether to
approve or deny the application for a license. The police reports are kept in
the Police Criminal Branch of the National Crime Record Bureau.
In order to ensure that the applicant handles the firearm in a safe and
responsible manner, the applicant is required to take an "arms handling" course
if the license is granted. Licenses to carry arms are valid for three years.
Any time a person wants to have their licenses or weapons taken away, the
Central Government has the final say. Additionally, they have complete control
over the production, import, export, and sale of such weapons and ammunition.
If the individual is already prohibited from possessing any arms and ammunition
under the provisions of this Act or under any other law currently in effect, or
if the individual is found to be of unsound mind or age of minor, the licensing
authority has the authority to deny the individual the license to possess arms
(Section 14 of the Act).
In accordance with Section 5 of the Act, no one is permitted to use,
manufacture, sell, transfer, convert, repair, or test firearms or ammunition
without first receiving a license.However, a person who is not prohibited from
possessing such arms or ammunition by this Act may sell or transfer arms and
ammunition that he legally owns for his own use.The person selling or
transferring firearms that require a license should inform the district
magistrate with jurisdiction or the officer at the nearest police station about:
The name and address of the person to whom he plans to transfer or sell these
firearms, as well as the sale or transfer of those firearms.
It is important to note that the person selling or transferring these firearms
must do so within 45 days of providing this information.
Licence for Arms Import/Export Section 10 of the Act makes it clear that no one
is allowed to take arms or ammunition out of India by land, air, or water
without a license.However, there are a few exceptions to this:
Without a license, any person who is eligible under this Act or any other Act,
or who is not prohibited by this Act, may take such arms or ammunition out of
India in reasonable quantities for his own personal use.
Only for the purpose of the sport can a legitimate tourist bring arms or
ammunition into India in reasonable quantities.Such a person ought to be a
citizen of the nation that has been identified by the Central Government in the
Official Gazette, and the laws of that nation should not prohibit them from
possessing any weapons or ammunition.
In addition, the Central Government grants the Commissioner of Customs extensive
authority to hold weapons or ammunition pending an order from the Central
The Act's Section 15 stipulates that the license will be valid for a period of
three years beginning on the date it was granted.However, for any reason that
must be recorded, it may be granted for a shorter period if the licensee so
requests or if the licensing authority so deems appropriate.Unless the licensing
authority decides otherwise for reasons that will be recorded, every license can
be renewed in the same manner as it was granted in accordance with Sections 13
License suspension Under the circumstances outlined in Section 17(3) of the Act,
the license may be revoked or suspended:
If the licensing authority determines that it is necessary for public safety to
revoke the license, if the license was obtained on the basis of incorrect
information or by suppressing material information, if any conditions for the
grant of the license were not fulfilled, if the license holder fails to comply
with the notice under Section 17(1) of the Act, or if the license holder applies
for such revocation, the license may be revoked if the licensing authority is
satisfied that the individual is unable to acquire or possess arms
A succinct written statement outlining the reasons for such a revocation ought
to be provided to the license holder by the licensing authority.
Types of Arms:
According to Section 2 of the Act, a person can have two main types of firearms:
- Prohibited Bores (PB), which can only be utilized by the State Police,
Central Paramilitary Forces, and Army.
- Non-Prohibited Bores (NPB) are weapons that can be used by anyone with a
valid arms license.
The measurements of the bore, which is the bullet's thickness or diameter, serve
as the primary basis for the distinction between the two.
After the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008, gun ownership laws
changed.Personnel from the armed forces and family heirlooms were permitted to
use prohibited bore firearms prior to the attack. However, following the
attacks, PB firearms can only be owned by those who either pose a "serious and
imminent threat" to themselves or members of their family as residents of
terrorist-prone areas or are potential targets of terrorists due to the nature
of their jobs.The Central Government is the only entity authorized to issue PB
The Act's Section 2(1)(h) includes a list of "prohibited ammunition," which
includes rockets, bombs, grenades, shells, missiles, and articles designed for
torpedo service and submarine mining. Additionally, the list includes ammunition
containing any noxious gas or liquid.
In addition, adapted firearms that provide a continuous discharge of missiles
upon applying pressure to the trigger or until the magazine containing the
missiles is empty and weapons designed to discharge noxious liquids and gases
are included in the list of prohibited arms in Section 2(1)(i) of the
act.Artillery, anti-aircraft, and anti-tank weapons are also on the list.
The possession, acquisition, manufacture, and sale of the aforementioned
prohibited arms and ammunition are all prohibited under Section 7 of the Act. In
addition, young people (those under the age of 21) are prohibited from acquiring
and possessing firearms through sale or transfer under Section 9 of the Act. The
act's sections 24A and B, respectively, forbid the carrying of notified arms in
public places in disturbed areas and the possession of notified arms in
Deposition of illegal arms
According to Section 21 of the Act, if a person's license expires, is revoked,
or is suspended to the point where the person can no longer legally possess the
weapons, he or she must immediately surrender the illegal weapons to the
appropriate officer at a police station.
Who can have arms
However the Demonstration doesn't explicitly give who can have specific arms and
ammo, Segments 9 and 14 comprises of people who are restricted from getting or
having such guns. According to Section 9(a), the following individuals are
ineligible to possess or acquire firearms and ammunition:
Is under the age of 21 years old, has been convicted of a crime involving
violence or moral turpitude, or has been ordered by the court to execute a bond
for keeping the peace or good behavior in accordance with the Code of Criminal
Procedure, 1973, during the term of that bond.
According to Section 14(b)(i), a person is not eligible for a license under the
Act if a licensing authority has reason to believe that the individual is
prohibited from acquiring, possessing, or carrying any arms or ammunition by any
provisions of the Act or by any other law applicable at the time, is of unsound
mind, or for any reason.
Powers of the central government
The Central Government can take the following actions by notifying the public in
the Official Gazette:
Sections 11 and 12 prohibit the import or export of particular arms or
ammunition, while Sections 17(9) and 17(9) direct the licensing authority to
suspend or revoke any license issued under this Act. Section 41 exempts or
excludes any person or class of persons in relation to specified arms or
ammunition from the operation of certain provisions or the entire provisions of
this Act. Section 42 directs a census of firearms in any area and empowers any
officer to conduct such census. Section 43 delegate its powers or functions to
any officer sub
According to the Indian Limitation Act of 1908, anyone who is dissatisfied with
a licensing authority's decision can appeal that decision to the appellate
authority within a specified time frame. However, there can be no appeal against
an order if it is issued by the government or under its direction.
A written petition with a brief explanation of the reasons for appealing against
the order is required for this appeal. It ought to likewise be joined by the
recommended expenses.The appellate authority should give the appellant a
reasonable opportunity to be heard before deciding on such an appeal. Unless the
appellate authority directs otherwise, the order against which the appeal was
filed will remain in effect. Whether to modify, confirm, or reverse the order,
the appellate authority's decision is final.
Case law relevant to the Arms Act:
- Right to possess arms and ammunition as a fundamental right under
Article 21 in Ganesh Chandra Bhatt v. Distt Magistrate, Almora & Ors.
(According to Article 21 of the Constitution, the question was whether the
right to bear arms was a part of the right to self-defense, which is a part
of the right to life and liberty.The Court made the following observations
in this case:
According to Article 21, the right to self-defense encompassed the right to
After three months, the license is considered to have been granted by the
government if the applicant has followed the proper procedure to obtain the
license for a non-prohibited firearm but has not received any communication
from the authorities.
The Mahabharata tradition of worshiping firearms during the festivals of
Dussehra and Diwali is associated with a citizen's self-respect and dignity,
which were necessary for their right to life under Article 21.
This decision, on the other hand, was overturned in response to the bombings
in Bombay in 1993. As a result, the right to bear arms was no longer
protected by the Constitution; instead, the Arms Act now governs the right
to bear arms and it is recognized as a legal right under the Act.
- In the case of Hari Kishan v. State (NCT Of Delhi) (2019), the
issue was regarding the interpretation of the word "possession" under
Section 25 of the Arms Act, which dealt with the offenses and penalties for
individuals that resulted in imprisonment for a minimum period of three
years, extendable to seven years with a fine. "Conscious possession" as a
core ingredient to establish guilt for an offense punishable under Section
25 of the Arms Act.
In this instance, it was discovered that the petitioner had a supposedly live
cartridge in the side pocket of his bag, which officials who were checking bags
at the Saket metro station noticed. This finding led to an immediate charge
sheet against the petitioner under Section 25 of the Arms Act.
The petitioner claimed that he was completely shocked and surprised because he
had no idea the live cartridge was in the side pocket of his bag and was instead
framed for it. The petitioner had never been in trouble. It was also
demonstrated that he lacked any kind of weapon or firearm. In addition, he was
unaware that the live cartridge was present, or, to put it another way, he was
unquestionably not in conscious possession of the live cartridge.
He stated that conscious possession was covered by Section 25 of the Act, and
that custody without knowledge of the nature of possession could not be
considered an offense under the Act. According to Section 45 of the Act, "the
acquisition, possession or carrying by a person of minor parts of arms or
ammunition which are not intended to be used along with complementary parts
acquired or possessed by them of any other person" does not constitute an
offense, as the petitioner further informed the Court.
Because there was no "whisper of averment in the First Information Report (FIR)
as averred in the charge sheet that the petitioner was aware of being in alleged
conscious and knowledgeable possession of the ammunition in question," the Court
agreed with the petitioner's arguments and declared that "the FIR against the
petitioner as well as the proceedings emanating therefrom were quashed."
The facts of the preceding case are comparable to those of Rachelle Joel
Oseran v. The State of Maharashtra and Others
(2018), which dealt with the
issue of "conscious possession" and resulted in the same verdict as the
The Ministry of Home Affairs' most recent plan is to keep a National Database of
Arms Licenses, which will be an official record of those who hold arms licenses
and serve as a means of controlling the issue and reducing illegal activity to a
minimum. Statistics show that, as of January 2021, the use of guns, the majority
of which are unregistered and illegal, continues to be the leading cause of
death in India, despite legislative efforts to curb the problem.
India couldn't measure up to the USA concerning weapon control as the last
option is a created country, with a more significant level of education and a
lower crime percentage than India. In the United States, the government is
better able to investigate applicants for arms and control the flow of arms
through the country. Even though India is moving in the same direction, there is
still a long way to go.
Since our own famous freedom fighters, a lot of people have argued about whether
or not guns will ever be protected by the constitution in India."Among the many
misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving
a whole nation of arms as the blackest," Mahatma Gandhi said.This is a golden
opportunity for us to learn how to use weapons and repeal the Arms Act.The ban
on owning weapons will be lifted and distrust will disappear if the middle
classes volunteer to assist the government during its trial.
As can be inferred from his statement, "I personally myself cannot conceive how
it would be possible for the State to carry on its administration if every
individual had the right to go into the market and purchase all sorts of
instruments of attack without any let or hindrance from the State," Dr. B. R.
Ambedkar's views on firearms, on the other hand, were completely different.
Written By: Jasdip Kaur Advocate
Ex Law officer Women and Child Dept
Govt of Delhi Nct Ex panel lawyer govt of Delhi NCT I did my schooling from Ghps
Vasant Vihar New Delhi Graduation in BA English Hons from Mata Sundri college of
Women University of Delhi i did my LLM ( Uslls IP university Delhi Dwarka)
currently pursuing my Phd in Law .
Email: [email protected]
, Ph no: 9821378225