In 2017, while hearing a writ petition filed by a tea vendor who lost his daughter during celebratory firing, the Delhi High Court had ordered the Union of India to frame stringent policies, rules and guidelines to curb the practice of firing in public gatherings, religious places and weddings.
The Delhi Police licensing unit had, at the time, submitted an affidavit in court that “there are already adequate legal provisions that exist to regulate any such incident”. In its reply, the Delhi Police submitted that while issuing an arms licence, they have made it clear that the “licence has been granted for self-protection and security, and any other use, like firing in the air during marriages, religious functions or social gatherings, is illegal and may result in cancellation of the licence and initiation of legal action”. However, this is not effective in curbing the use of firearms, argued Delhi High Court advocate Akash Vajpai, who represented the tea vendor in the case.
“The Delhi Police has said that mere cancellation of licences and registration of a case is enough. But what we need are strict guidelines from the Centre and state government to curb instances of deaths during celebratory firing,” Vajpai told The Indian Express. Acting on his PIL, Delhi High Court’s then Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal directed the government to “notify an effective policy” within three months. However, Vajpai maintained that no such guidelines have been issued.
With deaths as a result of celebratory firing not uncommon, professor Manoj Kumar Pathak from Banaras Hindu University’s Department of Forensic Medicine conducted a study — titled ‘Ballistic study of firing in an Indian marriage ceremony’ — that was published in the journal of Forensic Sciences and Criminal Investigation.
He concluded: “The liver was the most frequently damaged abdominal organ; it is second to the brain in overall visceral susceptibility since tissues with little elasticity, such as the liver and brain, are more readily injured than the lungs.” He added that in cases of celebratory firing, ricocheting of bullets is what kills the victims, which often happens because of inferior quality of firearms and low bullet velocity. “Even after ricocheting, the bullet can kill a child as it may lacerate sensitive organs,” Pathak told The Indian Express. In eight-year-old Rehan’s case, who died during celebratory firing on New Year’s Eve, the bullet entered his cheek and exited the stomach.