The provisions of Arms Act with regard to suspension or cancellation of Arms licence cannot be invoked lightly in an arbitrary manner, said the Bench.
In a recent Case, the Bombay High Court has held that merely because a criminal case is pending against a person, Arms Licence granted to him by the licensing authority cannot be cancelled.
The petitioner contended that during the relevant period he was elected as Municipal Councillor and was working as Upshahar Pramukh of Shiv Sena party in Pune district of the State. He had applied for licence under Section 13 of Chapter III of the Arms Act for possessing a Fire Arm (Revolver) for self protection. The Commissioner of Police, Pune being a licensing authority had granted licence to the petitioner in the year 2003 bearing licence No. 47/2003. The petitioner purchased one 0.32 crystal pistol bearing no. 194 on 5th August, 2003. It is contended that the Licensing Authority renewed the licence in the year 2005, 2007 and 2009. On 31st December, 2010 petitioner was served with a show-cause notice by the Police Commissioner, Pune intimating him as to why licence issued in favour of the petitioner should not be cancelled/revoked on the grounds mentioned in the said show-cause notice. On 10 th January, 2011 and 13th January, 2011 the petitioner filed reply to the said show-cause notice. On 24th January, 2011 the petitioner appeared in person before the Licensing Authority. He was heard by the Licensing Authority. The Licensing Authority by an order dated 8 th February, 2011 revoked the licence.
Section 17(3)(b) of Arms Act authorises the licensing authority to cancel or revoke the licence for the security of public peace or for public safety. The provisions indicate that in case the licensing authority is subjectively satisfied that in a given case if continuation of licence endangers public peace or public safety then the Licensing authority is empowered to cancel or revoke the licence. In the present case the licensing authority had exercised the said power. The show-cause notice refers to cases right from 1991 to 2006 and 3 cases of preventive action taken against the petitioner. The licensing authority had also observed in the show-cause notice that the registration of criminal case indicated that the petitioner was of criminal mind set. It was further observed that law and order problem was likely to arise. The licensing authority was of the opinion that due to law and order situation and danger to public peace, the licence granted in favour of the petitioner was required to be cancelled.
Allowing the Petition, the Bench comprising of Justices Prakash Naik and Naresh Patil has held as follows:
“The right to life and liberty are guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Arms licence is granted for personal safety and security after due enquiry by the authorities in accordance with provisions contained in the Arms Act, 1959. The provisions of Arms Act with regard to suspension or cancellation of Arms licence cannot be invoked lightly in an arbitrary manner. The provisions of the Arms Act particularly Section 13 to 17 indicate that once a licence is granted under the Act, the same shall be renewed from time to time unless there exist a ground of refusal as enumerated under Section 14 of the Act. Protection to life, property of citizen is responsibility of the State. It is only when person apprehends that machinery of State would not come to his help for protection, he/she applies for licence under the Act.The provisions of Section 17 A of the Arms Act indicate that arms licence can be cancelled or suspended if the licensing authority finds it necessary for the security of public peace or public safety. Merely because a criminal case is pending, the provisions of Section 17 of the Arms Act would not be attracted. Such provisions would be attracted in case the licensing authority finds that continuance of licence is detrimental to public peace or public security and safety. But the authority concerned will have to record a finding that how and under what circumstances and in what manner possession of arms licence could be contrary to the provisions of Section 17 B of the Arms Act. Each case is required to be considered on its own merits. Nothing was placed before us by the respondents to indicate that the petitioner had misused the licenced weapon at any point of time in past. The order of revocation of license refers to two criminal cases registered against the petitioner. In the facts we find that mere registration of criminal case/cases could not be a ground to revoke the license. The order shall indicate clearly that continuance of licence would be against public peace, safety and security.
Read the Judgment here.