Over the last week, gun licenses have been in the news, thanks to Rakesh Ranjan Yadav aka Rocky Yadav, son of Janata Dal (United) member of the legislative council in Bihar Manorama Devi. Yadav is the prime accused in the killing of 19-year-old Aditya Sachdeva, son of a Gaya-based businessman. The alleged incident followed a row over overtaking on the Bodhgaya-Gaya road.

It has since been reported that the family of Manorama Devi has five firearms licenses among themselves. Rocky, The Indian Express reported on Monday, “was issued an arms license on June 12, 2013, under the sports quota and for general protection".

The report added that Rocky had an all-India gun permit, “which was valid until 2018". Reports quoting the Delhi Police stated that Rocky, who was also a national-level rifle shooter, was issued a gun licence owing to threat from Naxals, a reason he stated in his application. Yadav was eligible to procure firearms because of the “renowned shooter" certificate he produced at the time of application.

So how exactly can you procure firearms in India, as per the law?

In India, the manufacture, sale, possession and carrying of firearms is regulated by the Arms Act, 1959. The Act itself has a colonial lineage, with its origins tracing back to 1878, when the British felt it necessary to introduce gun control to prevent another uprising (like 1857). The other relevant legislation that pertains to procuring an arms license is the ‘Arms Rules, 1962’.

To procure a new license, you need to fill an application form ‘A’, which is available in the District Police office. The applicant must submit the form with relevant documents (copy of ration card, election card, IT returns, two character certificates, physical fitness certificate, educational qualifications, age proof and other supporting documents) and submit it to the concerned police station. After submission, the station makes an enquiry, a report of which is submitted to the Zonal DCP (in commissionerates) and SPs (in districts), following which the applicants have to appear for an interview by the DCP or the district magistrate. Once the applicant has fulfilled the application procedure as per the satisfaction of the authorities concerned, an arms license is issued. The process takes close to two months to complete—from application to licensing.

As of now, state governments can only issue a license which is valid in a maximum of three adjoining states. But they can also consider all-India validity requests at the state level for a special category of persons, including sitting Union ministers/MPs, military/paramilitary personnel, officers of all-India services, officers with liability to serve anywhere in India, and sportspersons for three years, “after which it shall be reconsidered by the state government based on need, and the area validity can be either reduced or allowed to continue for another three years."

For others (and those not included in the special categories), “the State Government shall seek prior concurrence of the MHA with full justification in deserving cases. All India validity may be allowed for three years in such cases and shall be reconsidered after three years by the State Government in prior concurrence of the MHA."

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