July 15, 2009 4:05:56 am
The Bombay High Court has made it clear that authorities cannot issue a blanket order asking every citizen to deposit his/her licensed weapon with the police prior to the elections. The order,asking a person to deposit arms,can be issued by the licensing authority (police in most cases) only after examining the case individually by a screening committee,court has said in its order.
The petitions filed by Govind Tilve had taken exception to Sindhudurg district magistrates general order asking all licence-holders to deposit their arms in April this year,before the Lok Sabha elections.
Division bench of Justice Ranjana Desai and Justice Rajesh Ketkar however held that such an order is not proper. A law-abiding citizen to whom licence is issued for his safety may take an order to surrender as an affront to his dignity and status, the judges said in their judgment.
The election commission,in 1996,had issued a circular to government authorities,asking them to collect arms prior to election. But as the High Court noted,this order required district magistrates/police officers to first check every weapon holders antecedents. The notice to surrender arms till the elections get over was to be issued only if found necessary in an individual case.
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The High Court noted that in an earlier case,government had been asked to form a screening committee for this purpose.
The court has now framed guidelines,which say that a screening committee should be in place prior to every election. In districts,the District magistrate and superintendent of police would be its members.
In cities,police commissioner and joint police commissioners would be its members.
The committee will shortlist the licence-holders who have criminal antecedents,or who have been convicted,or who are out on bail. The screening committee will examine such persons before filing of nominations for the elections begins. Once police receive report of such screenings,they have to issue notice to the concerned person,asking him to deposit his weapon.
The person must deposit the weapon within seven days,failing which he could be prosecuted under section 188 of IPC (disobeying public servants order).
The authorities must take good care of the weapons deposited and should return it to the owner within one week of declaration of results.
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