The Delhi High Court recently denied interfering with an order of the Licencing Authority, denying a firearm license to an advocate, which he sought as a right to self-protection under the Arms Act, 1959.

In the matter, noting that an Arms licence is a creation of the statute and the Licensing Authority has the discretion to grant or to not grant a licence in each case, a single-judge bench of Justice M. Pratibha Singh observed, “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 issuance of arms licenses indiscriminately. The perceived weakness of the State, which is one of the grounds, which the Petitioner has urged for seeking the arms license, if accepted, would result in recognition of a right to own a fire arm…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”.

In the pertinent factual matrix, the petitioner, a practicing advocate sought directions for the issuance of an arms license by the Joint Commissioner of Police (Licensing), the Licensing Authority under the Arms Act, 1959. He contended that he appears in various court proceedings on behalf of the accused persons or complainants, and therefore, apprehended threats from accused persons whenever he appeared for the complainants. Consequentially, he apprehends threats from accused persons.

Therefore, subsequent to the relevant proceedings, the license application of the petitioner was rejected by the Licensing Authority on November 23, 2020. An appeal under section 18 of the Act, was also rejected by the Appellate Authority i.e., the Lieutenant Governor (LG) on November 30, 2022.

The petitioner relied upon the judgments in Vinod Kumar v. State 2014 (1) LRC 375 (Del) and Devshibhai Raydebhai Gadher v. State of Gujarat to argue that if none of the grounds under Section 14 of the Act are made out, the arms license would have to be issued.

On the other hand, the respondents relied upon Yashpal Singh v. Licensing Authority W.P.(C) 6520/2015, wherein the Court held that there can be no right to have an arms license, which is in effect a privilege.

In the impugned order the Authority, Delhi Lieutenant Governor had observed, “The applicant has never been a victim of a crime. The applicant did not disclose any Instance of threat to his life or property undergone by him. No personal enmity as well as dispute with anyone is disclosed. No specific threat to his life is disclosed. The applicant states that he appears in various court proceedings both on behalf of accused persons and complainants. The applicant apprehends threat from accused person in cases where he appears on behalf of the complainants. The grounds put forward by the applicant are part of a job and may be classified as professional hazard. The applicant did not disclose any specific threat instance wherein an accused threatened him with bodily harm. There are thousands of practicing advocates in the city. If the ground put forward by the applicant were to be made a criteria for the grant an arms license, the Licensing Authority would be constrained to issue arms license to practicing advocates in thousands. It is noted that most of the times advocates are engaged in court proceedings and weapon is not allowed in the court. Further, the licensed weapon cannot be kept either in a chamber or in the personal vehicle and therefore the very purpose of self- protection is defeated. There is no justifiable reason to grant an arms License to the Applicant”.

Thus, the bench in the present matter relied upon People for Animals v. Union of India where the Court had held that carrying and possessing firearms is only a matter of statutory privilege and no citizen has a blanket right to carry firearms.

However, after perusing the impugned order, the bench was of the opinion that no interference is called for in the writ jurisdiction as the refusal of grant of arms license was well reasoned.

In furtherance of the same, while disposing of the petition, it was observed, “…This recognition leading to issuance of a licence and unbridled owning of fire arms, 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 license. The Licensing Authority has to assess the threat perception and the reasons for the request for a license which has been given by the applicant concerned. It is only after assessing the same that such a license can be issued”.

Cause Title: Adv. Shiv Kumar v. Union Of India And Ors. [Neutral Citation No. 2023:DHC:3614]

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