The Kerala High Court observed that there cannot be blanket directions to surrender Arms unless the same is reasonably necessary as per the parameters provided by the Election Commission (EC).

The Court observed thus in a writ petition filed by 17 persons who were aggrieved by the orders of the Screening Committee constituted for surrender of Arms in respect of which licences were issued under the Arms Act, 1959.

A Single Bench of Justice N. Nagaresh held, “It is not disputed that wild animal threats are rampant in certain areas of the State during the recent past. Most of the petitioners are farmers, who want to protect their lives, property as well as agriculture, for the purpose of their livelihood. … In the circumstances, I am of the view that the Screening Committee shall reconsider / review the cases of the petitioners. Unless the surrender of Arms is reasonably necessary in the light of the parameters provided by the Election Commission, there cannot be blanket directions to surrender Arms.”

Advocates P.M. Ziraj, Irfan Ziraj, and Alen J. Cheruvil appeared on behalf of the petitioners in this case.

Factual Background -

The petitioners held Arms on the basis of a licence issued under the Arms Act. In view of the impending Lok Sabha Elections, 2024, the Station House Officer directed the petitioners to surrender their Arms in order to ensure peaceful, free and fair Elections. The petitioners were aggrieved by such directions. They submitted that they had obtained Arms Licence for protection of their own person and property.

The licences were granted to the petitioners after making due enquiries and finding that the petitioners required Arms Licence for protection of their lives/property. The respondents i.e., the State, District Collector, and District Police Chief, were compelling the petitioners to surrender the Arms as Elections were notified.

The High Court after hearing the contentions of the counsel noted, “From the pleadings and arguments, it emerges that the Screening Committee constituted pursuant to the directives of the Election Commission of India has taken a decision to grant exemption to certain Arms Licence holders, who are working for financial institutions.”

The Court added that there is no material to indicate that the Screening Committee has considered the important aspects as to whether the petitioners are released on bail or whether they have any history of criminal offences and as to whether they were involved in any type of rioting etc., in the past.

“The Screening Committee is directed to reconsider the matter in the light of the Arms Act and Rules, notification and guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India and after obtaining necessary inputs from the police authorities as is found necessary. Till a decision is taken afresh, the status quo as regards possession of Arms by the petitioners shall be maintained”, it directed.

Accordingly, the High Court disposed of the writ petition and set aside the orders rejecting the exemption application of petitioners.

Cause Title- Jose Joseph & Ors. v. State of Kerala & Ors. (Neutral Citation: 2024:KER:29325)

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