The Arms Act, 1959 is an Act of Parliament of India which regulates matters relating to acquisition, possession, manufacturing, sale, transportation, import and export, licencing of arms and ammunition. It also empowers government officials to exercise powers in relation to the matter. Like every other substantive law, it lays down the penalties and punishments associated with violation of rules related to this act. This Act which deters many Indians to own weapons to ensure that if there were another Indian uprising, it would be less effective.Q1. What was the need to make a law regulating arms and ammunition in India?


Ans. The history of this act dates back to the colonial times. After the Revolt of 1857, Britishers were frightened by Indians as they noticed that Indians with arms were a threat to their rule in the country. So, in order to dismiss the possibility of another uprising in masses, in 1878, they introduced Indian Arms Act. According to which, no Indian was allowed to keep arms without any prior permission & proper licence. This rule was implemented during Viceroy Lord Lytton’s tenure.


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This Act exempted all Europeans, while placing strict controls and penalties on Indians owning any type of weapon. This was strongly opposed by Mahatma Gandhi and other national leaders. He said, “Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest…”[1]


After independence, The Indian Arms Act,1878 was replaced by The Arms Act which came into force on 1st October, 1962. It was found that, in certain situations, it is necessary to permit the law-abiding citizens to have in possession and use firearms. Hence, the Act came into effect. Thus, the Right to Keep and Bear Arms was not made a Fundamental Right but was recognised as a Legal Right through The Arms Act,1959. The Arms Rules,1962 also came into effect.


Q2. What are the main objectives of The Arms Act, 1959?


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Ans. The basic objective behind The Arms Act,1959 is enshrined in its Preamble, which states, “An Act to consolidate and amend the law relating to arms and ammunition”. It aims to reduce the circulation of illegal weapons and the resultant crimes.


Also, the Act seek to classify firearms and other prohibited weapons so as to ensure –


that dangerous weapons of military patterns are not available to civilians, particularly anti-social elements;

that weapons for self-defence are available for all citizens under license unless in other circumstances. According to this legislation, no person should acquire or possess any arms or ammunition unless the person has a licence which has been issued in accordance with the provisions of this Act; and

that firearms required for training purpose are made easily available on permits.

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