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General Studies 2 >> Polity



1. Context 

The Punjab government has cancelled the 813 gun licenses across the state in a bid to clamp down on the "Gun Culture" in the state.

2. Key Points

  • Rules have to be followed for keeping a gun. Now there is a ban on carrying and displaying weapons in public functions, religious places, marriage ceremonies, or any other events in Punjab, Random checking will be done in different areas in the coming days.
  • The hinting at a "complete ban on that glorifying violence and weapons".
  • As of date, there are a total of 3, 73, 053 arms licenses in Punjab but the government is continuously taking action to end gun culture.

3. Reasons for Punjab clamping down on gun culture

  • The Punjab government has been under pressure from the opposition over "worsening" law and order after the murders of Kabaddi Player Sandeep Nangal Ambian in March 2022, singer Sidhu Moosewala in May 2022 and November 2022 Killings of Shiv Sena leader Sudhir Suri and Dera Sacha follower Pardeep Singh.
  • The state's recent move to suspend licenses is one in a series of similar measures undertaken by the state previously.
  • On November 13, 2022, the Punjab government ordered a complete ban on the public display of weapons and songs glorifying violence.

4. About the 2022 order

  • On November 13, 2022, the state's Department of Home Affairs and Justice headed by Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann issued a letter to the State DGP, all-district magistrates, commissioners and SSPs forbidding the public display of firearms and songs glorifying weapons.
  • The order also called for a review of all licenses issued within three months and barred the issuance of new licenses for the next three months, except when authorities are personally convinced of its necessity in extraordinary circumstances.
  • It required the officers to "immediately cancel the arms license" if found to be issued to any miscreant in their review.
  • However, in a significant dilution of the order, the Punjab Police said on November 29 that there is no restriction on the issuance of new arms licenses and carrying them for self-defence.
  • Before this, the Punjab government 2020 wrote to the Union Information Technology (IT) and Information and Broadcasting (I & B) ministries, requesting the removal of content glorifying violence, drugs and liquor from Youtube and other social media platforms.
  • This came after the Punjab & Haryana High Court's July 2019 order in 'Reet Mohinder Singh vs the State of Punjab and others' that directed the DGP of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh to ensure that no songs glorifying liquor, wine, drugs and violence are played, even in live shows.
  • "The District magistrates/ SSPs/ SPs of each district shall be personally responsible to ensure due compliance of the directions issued", the Division Bench said while observing that the glorification of violence has given rise to the culture of gangsters in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.
The 2019 order served as a basis for initiating action under the Indian Arms Act, 1959 and the Indian Penal Code against singers like Elly Mangat, who allegedly participated in a celebratory firing and Sippy Gill for allegedly promoting violence and weapons in his song "Gundagardi".

5. Possessing firearms under the Indian Arms Act
  • The Indian Arms Act of 1959 was passed after India attained Independence.
  • It scrapped the erstwhile Act of 1878, passed by the British in the aftermath of the 1857 mutiny, restricting Indians from Possessing firearms.
  • According to the 1959 Act, no one can acquire possess or carry any firearms in India without a license.
  • The Act bars one person from carrying more than three firearms after its amendment in 1983, except if the person is a licensed dealer belonging to the armed forces of the Union or a member of a rifle club or association licensed or recognised by the Centre.
  • The Arms Act allows Indian citizens aged 21 years and above to get Non-Prohibited Bore (NPB) guns.
  • Bore refers to the diameter of a gun's bullets. NPB guns adhering to .35, .33, .22 and .380 are permissible for a license.
  • Meanwhile, Prohibited Bore guns of bores.38. .455 and .303 can only be issued to defence personnel or persons facing imminent threats to life.
  • A license can only be granted for purposes of self-defence, crop protection or sports.
  • Section 9 of the Act prevents persons of unsound mind or those out on bond from getting a such license.
  • Applications for the grant of arms license for NPB weapons are dealt with by the State Government/DM concerned, based on the report of the police authorities, prepared after a thorough background check of the applicant's antecedents and family details.
  • However, the Centre is also empowered to prohibit the possession and distribution of arms in certain "disturbed areas".

6. An amendment to the Act in 2019

  • An amendment to the Act in December 2019 reduced the number of permitted firearms from three to one and provided one year to deposit the excess firearms with the officer-in-charge of the nearest police station or with a licensed firearm dealer or unit armoury.
  • The amendment also increased the duration of validity of a firearm license, from three to five years.

7. About the Arms Rules, 2016

  • In 2016, the Centre issued new Arms Rules, 2016, superseding the Arms Rules, 1962, whereby applying for an arms license, rifle club, association or firing range required one to complete a safety training course involving safe handling and carrying procedures.
  • Provisions for granting restricted categories of arms to those living in militancy-hit areas and a decision on applications for arms licenses within two months were part of the rules issued by the Centre.

For Prelims & Mains

For Prelims: Arms Act, Union Information Technology (IT) Ministry, Information and Broadcasting (I & B) Ministry, Reet Mohinder Singh vs the State of Punjab and others, Indian Arms Act, 1959, 
For Mains: 
1. What is Indian Arms Act? Discuss the challenges of banning the Gun culture in Punjab. (250 Words)

Previous year questions

1. Match List - I with List II and select the correct answer using the codes given below the lists: (UPSC 2020)
List – I                                 List – II
A. Indian Arms Act             1. 1876
B. Royal Title Act               2. 1878
C. Indian High Court Act    3. 1869
D. Indian Divorce Act         4. 1861
A. (A) 2, (B) 3, (C) 1, (D) 4                B. (A) 3, (B) 1, (C) 2, (D) 4
C. (A) 1, (B) 2, (C) 3, (D) 4                D.  (A) 2, (B) 1, (C) 4, (D) 3
1. Answer: D
Source: The Indian Express

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