Report of Standing Committee of Parliament on Arms Act ,1959

General Manager

Dear Friends,

Frist of all , I would like to pay our thanks to the members of NAGRI who presented well drafted representation before the members of Standing Committee of Parliament for illegal amendment in Arms Act , 1959 and I also would like to appriciate the members of Standing Committee who gave their due respect to the worries of citizen's of the country.

I read the 151th Report of the Standing Committee of the Parliament in the matter of Amendment in Arms Act , 1959 & on advisiory instruction issued by MHA vide F.No.V-11016 / 16 / 2009-Arms , Ministry of Home Affairs ,IS-II Division / Arm Section dated 06-04-2010. In the said report , members of the Standing Committee of Parliament has obsered that advisory instructions issued to all States / UTS is ab initio faulty , inasmuch as steps chosen by the ministry were in breach of Parliamentary proprieties and conventions. The committee also concluded in thier report that the Ministry of Home Affairs should put on hold the whole exercise of implementation of the Policy and immediately wirthdraw the so called Advisories dated 06-04-2010 issued ti all States / UTs. The Report of membrs of Standing Committee of Parliament are reporduced as iunder;

CHAPTER- VI

OBSERVATIONS/CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

6.1 The Committee would like to place on record the fact that it considered the

subject “Arms, Fire Arms and Ammunitions”, allocated to the Ministry of Home Affairs,

under the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 (Entry No. 41) in

seven sittings, even before the reference of the Arms (Amendment) Bill, 2010 to it. The

Committee took up the subject for detailed discussion keeping in view the vastly changed

security, law and order and social scenarios in the country.

6.2 As mentioned in the preceding chapters, the Government posted the drafts of the

Revised “Arms & Ammunition Policy for Individuals” and the “Arms and Ammunition

Manufacturing Policy” on the website of Ministry of Home Affairs on 21st December,

2009, inviting comments from the general public by 6th January, 2010.

6.3 The Committee wanted to know from the representatives of the Ministry of Home

Affairs the background which prompted the Ministry to review the existing Arms Policy.

In this context, the Committee decided to examine the subject "Arms, Fire Arms and

Ammunitions" and felt that till such time the Committee had formulated its

recommendations and observations on the subject, the Ministry should not finalize the

new policy. The Committee repeatedly advised the Government not to proceed with the

announcement of the new policy and its implementation, unless Parliament had approved

the amendments to the Arms Act,1959 and the Arms Rules,1962, because in the event of

Parliamentary approval not forthcoming, the new policy would become infructuous. In

the sitting of the Committee dated 22nd April, 2010, when the notification of the new

Arms Policy came up for brief mention, the Committee reiterated that the Policy should

be laid on the Table of both Houses of Parliament and desired that it be referred to the

Committee for detailed consideration. The Committee is constrained to note that instead

of responding to the suggestions and advice of the Committee, the Ministry of Home

Affairs went ahead with the finalization of the revised Arms and Ammunition Policy on

5th April, 2010 and put the same on its website.

6.4 The Committee feels that the notice given for the general public to comprehend

and comment upon such a policy of vital national importance is short. The draft Revised

Arms & Ammunition Policy should have been given wide publicity in the national and

regional dailies, viz. newspapers/weekly, fortnightly, monthly magazines, along with

adequate publicity through the electronic media as well and a debate generated to collect

the views of the public at large. The Committee also wishes to point out that this policy

was put on the website in Hindi after the intervention of the Standing Committee. The

Committee observes that such documents of national importance should have been posted

on the website both in English and Hindi as per the official language policy of the

country.

6.5 The Committee observes that two policy documents – (i) Arms and Ammunition

Manufacturing Policy and (ii) Arms and Ammunition Policy for Individuals – were

finalized by the Ministry of Home Affairs on 5th April, 2010 and put on the Ministry’s

website under the link “Circulars for Public’ disregarding the Committee’s advice. None

of the suggestions made by the Committee, except putting the Hindi version of the draft

policy on the net, forwarding policy papers to the Members and extending deadline for

submission of views/comments, was accepted by the Government. The advice given by

the Committee to the Government to follow the standard procedure in giving effect to the

changes in the existing policy, was also not heeded to. The policy as finalized was exactly

identical to the draft put on the website inviting comments from the public and the Home

Minister preferred not to lay copies of the policy documents in Parliament. The two

policy documents have been brought into force by the Home Ministry by issuing detailed

directives in the garb of advisories to the Secretaries (Home Departments) of all the

States and UTs. Curiously enough, the Ministry has enforced the new policy documents

by issuing executive instructions to be complied with strictly, without waiting for formal

parliamentary approval to the amendments to the Arms Act, 1959 and the Arms Rules,

1962.

6.6 The Committee fails to understand as to why the Government had not felt it

necessary to seek formal parliamentary approval before enforcing various new features

of the Policy, which included inter-alia amendments to the Arms Act and the Arms Rules

even before introducing the amendment Bill and laying the amendment to the Rules.

The Government may argue that the revised policy and the instructions issued

thereunder do not materially change the provisions of the Arms Act, 1959 and the Arms

Rules 1962, but the Ministry of Home Affairs should appreciate the fact that the changes

that have been made in the policy and the advisories issued are consequential to the

provisions of the Arms Act 1959 and the Arms Rules 1962 and this has been done without

getting the changes therein approved by the Parliament. This is against the basic

democratic principle of executive’s accountability to the legislature as per the scheme of

the Constitution.

6.7 It is a well established parliamentary practice that Ministers make statements in

the House in order to keep the House informed of matters of public importance or to

apprise the House about Government policy in regard to a matter of topical interest at

the earliest opportunity5. In deciding what statements should be made first in the House,

a distinction is to be drawn between matters of policy and news. In matters of policy,

Govt. should first inform the House. But in the case of news, information can be given to

Press before informing the House6.

6.8 The Committee wishes to reiterate that Policy statements should be made by

Ministers on the floor of the House, when the House is in session before releasing them to

Press or Public7. Where a statement is made outside the House even clarifying the policy

already enunciated, the Minister should also make a statement about that in the House at

the earliest opportunity8. The day the policy documents were finalized i.e. 5th April 2010

Parliament was in Session but the Government, for reasons best known to it and in

violation of established parliamentary practice, and convention, chose not to lay the

policy statements even when the Budget Session of Parliament concluded on 7th May,

2010. In the view of the Committee, the new Arms and Ammunition Policy which has

already been implemented – mostly through executive instructions and partly through

proposed amendment of the Act and the Rules, yet to be approved by Parliament,

amounts to exercise of power by the executive beyond the constitutional mandate. This

act of the Ministry of Home Affairs has taken the Parliament and the Committee for

granted.

5 Parliamentary Procedure, Law, Privileges Practice & Precedents by Dr. Subhash C. Kashyap op cit.

6 L.S. Deb., dt. 3.12.1971 op cit

7 H.P. Deb., dt. 1.9.1953 op cit; L.S. Deb dated 22.12.67 op cit

8 L.S. Deb., dt. 18.3.1970 op cit.

6.9 When the Committee asked the Home Secretary to apprise its Members as to

when the Home Minister was going to lay the policy documents on the Table of both the

Houses of Parliament and what were the compelling circumstances which prompted the

Ministry to announce the Policy through its website when Parliament was in Session and

issue advisories/instructions to all the State Governments for implementing the Policy,

without waiting for Parliament's approval to the proposed amendments to the Arms Act

1959 and Arms Rules 1962, the Home Secretary merely repeated that he would bring the

views of the Committee about laying of the Policy on the Table of both Houses of

Parliament, to the notice of the Home Minister. The Home Secretary did not respond to

the pointed query as to why the Government hurriedly finalized the policy and asked the

State Governments to implement the same. He chose to state in his usual refrain that he

would bring the matter to the notice of the Home Minister. Thereafter, nothing was

heard from the Home Ministry, nor were the Policy Documents laid on the Table of the

Houses, except the fact that the Arms (Amendment) Rules, 2010 were laid on the Table of

the Lok Sabha on 10th August, 2010 and in the Rajya Sabha on 11th August, 2010.

Subsequently, the Arms (Amendment) Bill, 2010 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 25th

August, 2010. In this context the Committee recalls an observation made by the Home

Secretary before it and which has been quoted in para 2.30 of Chapter- II of this Report

that it is upto to the Home Minister to decide on laying the Policy on the Tables of the two

Houses of Parliament and he wishes the policy to be announced, then he would lay it on

the Table of Houses. The Committee deprecates this attitude of the Ministry of Home

Affairs in general and the Home Minister in particular in ignoring a six decade old

parliamentary practice and convention of first laying policy documents in Parliament and

then making them public. This obduracy on the part of the executive has set a bad

precedent in the functioning of our parliamentary democracy and the sooner such a trend

is reversed, the better it would be for the healthy and harmonious functioning of the two

arms of the State.

6.10 Having made the above observations, the Committee is not able to comprehend as

to why the Ministry proceeded with the finalization of the policy in a tearing hurry,

knowing fully well that the Committee was seized of the subject and was in the process of

making suggestions/ observations in the matter. The Committee strongly disapproves the

attitude of the Ministry of Home Affairs in ignoring the advice given by it to the

Ministry; in repeatedly making evasive statements before it by the Home Secretary; and

in justifying the wrong procedure adopted in announcing and implementing the policy.

6.11 The Committee observes that the replies dated 5th and 25th January, 2011, given

by the Ministry of Home Affairs are elusive and do not dispel the doubts in the minds of

Members of the Committee, such as the urgency shown in the implementation the policy.

The Committee observes that the argument of Ministry of Home Affairs that they have

only issued an advisory to the State Governments on 6th April, 2010 which contains

instructions about the procedural aspects of grant of arms licences, does not hold water.

Though the Ministry contend that the advisories issued to the State Govts. and Union

Territories, are merely guidelines, actually these are specific instructions on the subject

for strict compliance by the concerned authorities.

6.12 The Committee is of the considered view that the major components of the policy

document can be brought into force only by amending the Arms Act and the Arms Rules,

but the proposed amendments to the Act and the Rules, do not cover all aspects of the

new policy. The Committee observes that while the Arms (Amendment) Bill, 2010 which

was referred to the Committee, under Rule 270(b) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct

of Business in the Council of States, for examination and report, sought to give effect to

only one component of the new Policy, the Arms (Amendment) Rules, 2010 give effect to

another component of the said Policy, whereas the major elements of the Policy had

already been brought into force by way of directions to the State Governments and UT

Administrations.

6.13 Be that as it may, the Committee is more than convinced that the course adopted

by the Ministry of Home Affairs in formulating, finalizing and enforcing the New Arms

and Ammunition Policy, is ab initio faulty, inasmuch as the steps chosen by the Ministry

were in breach of parliamentary proprieties and conventions. The Arms (Amendment)

Bill, 2010 and the Arms (Amendment) Rules, 2010 are consequential to the New Policy.

As the Policy Documents have not been laid on the Table of the two Houses of

Parliament, which consequently cannot be referred to this Committee by the Presiding

Officer, it has taken a conscious decision not to proceed with clause-by-clause

consideration of the Bill which would have been a piecemeal exercise in isolation and

therefore not desirable.

6.14 Keeping in view the wide ranging implications of the New Policy on the law

abiding citizens and its enforcement, mostly through executive fiat, the Committee

recommends to the Ministry of Home Affairs that they should put on hold the whole

exercise of implementation of the Policy, immediately withdraw the so called Advisories

dated 6.4.2010 issued to States/UTs; put the subject in the public domain for wider

consultations with the people and their representatives at various levels; take on board all

the views and suggestions, including the ones incorporated in this report with a view to

making the policy citizen–friendly and thereafter notify a Revised Policy and then lay the

same on the Table of both Houses of Parliament. Subsequently, the Ministry should bring

a comprehensive Bill to amend the principal legislation and lay the amendments to the

Rules after due examination, precedent to the implementation of the Policy.


J.P.Chaturvedi


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Excellent reply by Standing Committee. We all should fight for RKBA our natural, human and fundamental right under Articles 19 and 21 of Constitution http://www.lawyersclubindia.com/forum/RKBA-guaranteed-under-Articles-19-and-21-of-Constitution-36011.asp

 
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