Right to own Firearms not a Fundamental Right in India: Delhi High Court

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Court was hearing an advocate’s plea against the Delhi lieutenant governor’s decision rejecting his application seeking an arms licence.

The Delhi High Court on Monday ruled that the right to own a firearm is not a Fundamental Right in India.

While hearing an advocate’s plea against the Delhi lieutenant governor’s decision rejecting his application seeking an arms licence, the bench of Justice Prathiba M. Singh stated that an arms licence is a creation of the statute and the licensing authority is vested with the discretion whether to grant or not grant such a licence, depending upon the fact situation in each case.

“An application by an advocate merely based on the ground of appearance on behalf of the accused persons, in the opinion of this Court, would not be sufficient to grant an arms license”, the court said.

“All lawyers/advocates who are appearing on the criminal side for the accused or the prosecution cannot claim a right to own an arms license, inasmuch as this could result in the issuance of arms licenses indiscriminately,” the court added.

“The perceived weakness of the state, which is one of the grounds, which the petitioner has urged for seeking the arms licence, if accepted, would result in recognition of a right to own a firearm. This recognition leading to issuance of a licence and unbridled owning of firearms could also pose a threat to the safety and security of the other citizens, which the licensing authority would have to keep in mind while allowing or rejecting the arms licence”, Justice Singh said.

The court also said that the licensing authority has to assess the threat perception and the reasons for the request for a license which had been given by the applicant concerned. It is only after assessing the same that such a license can be issued, court held.

The petitioner Shiv Kumar a practicing advocate, had sought directions for the issuance of an arms license by the Joint Commissioner of Police (Licensing), which is the licensing authority under the Arms Act, of 1959. He had filed an application in 2015. As the same was not decided, he filed a writ petition before the high court, seeking an early decision.

Kumar challenged the order passed by the LG on November 30, rejecting his application seeking an arms license.

 “During the course of submissions, the court has asked the petitioner appearing in person as to the reasons for which he has applied for an arms licence. The only reason that is forthcoming is that the petitioner wishes to own an arms licence for the purpose of self-defense/protection. Right, to own a firearm is not a fundamental right in India”, the court observed.

While disposing of the plea the court held, “After having perused the impugned order, this Court is of the opinion that no interference is called for in writ jurisdiction as the refusal of grant of arms license is well reasoned. The petition, along with all pending applications, is disposed of”.

Case Title: Adv. Shiv Kumar v. Union of India & Ors.