The Karnataka High Court has issued directions and guidelines to the Authorities to ensure they do not call residents en masse to surrender firearms during the ongoing Lok Sabha Elections.

The Court also held that issuing such blanket orders calling upon licence holders to surrender firearms encroaches on the essence of the licence procedure and against guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India(‘ECI’).

The Bench of Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum observed, “In every ensuing elections if the residents who hold gun license are en masse called upon to surrender firearms, that does not serve the purpose for which guidelines are issued by the Election Commission of India… Since the authorities consistently violate the guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India, this Court deems it fit to issue certain directions… These guidelines are designed to balance safeguarding public safety and upholding individual rights. By adhering to these guidelines, authorities can ensure a fair, transparent, and accountable process that maintains the integrity of the electoral system while respecting the rights of firearm license holders.

Advocate Subramanya Bhat appeared for the Petitioners while AGA Rahul Cariappa appeared for the Respondents.

Writ petitions were filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India praying for quashing of the blanket order passed by the deputy commissioner calling upon the licence holders to deposit their guns after directives were issued by the ECI.

The Court said, “Each firearms license holder undergoes a rigorous vetting process by the authorities before being granted a license. This process includes a thorough background check, verification of antecedents and consideration of genuine need of firearm, such as protection from wildlife in relevant areas. Therefore, the action of the Deputy Commissioner in issuing directions by way of blanket order calling upon the license holders to surrender their guns without individualized review, contradicts not only the guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India, but it encroaches upon the very essence of license procedure.”

The Court issued the following directions:

1. The authorities are strictly prohibited from issuing blanket orders that demand the deposit of firearms from all license holders.

2. The authorities have to take cognizance of the vulnerable communities who are often facing wildlife-induced damage to crops and livestock.

3. All directives and communications regarding the deposit or any other action related to firearms must be conveyed in written form.

4. Before the commencement of any election, authorities must conduct a rigorous screening process for firearm license holders.

The Court further directed that

5. The Election Commission shall provide clear and comprehensive guidelines outlining the responsibilities and duties of concerned police officials in conducting the pre-election screening.

6. Although police stations may not typically maintain lists of persons on bail, they should keep records of individuals charged with offences relating to rioting during elections.

7. The Election Commission should actively monitor the implementation of its directives by securing reports from all district magistrates.

8. A comprehensive review should be conducted after every election to evaluate the implementation of the Election Commission's directives.

9. An extensive review of firearm offences directly related to elections should be conducted.

10. Rather than resorting to a mass withdrawal of firearms, authorities should adopt a targeted approach based on individual risk assessments.

The Court also directed, “There are several individuals including activists, Advocates who are often exposed to potential risk to their life. Therefore, during every elections, there cannot be a blanket order calling upon these individuals/activists/ professionals to surrender guns/firearms especially when these individuals/professionals/activists have obtained licenses for personal security and the same is critical to hold guns for ensuring their safety and wellbeing. Therefore, by way of blanket order, the authorities cannot expose the individuals vulnerable to threat to life. This may be also prevalent during election period and such individuals who have no nexus with election process may need firearms more during the elections, than otherwise.”

Accordingly, the Court allowed the writ petitions with the above directions.

Cause Title: M Govinda Bhat and Anr. v. The Deputy Commissioner And District Magistrate And District Election Officer and Ors.


Petitioners: Advocate Subramanya Bhat

Respondents: AGA Rahul Cariappa

Click here to read/download the Order