The Explosive Substances Act, 1908

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The Explosive Substances Act, 1908 (Act No. 6 of 1908) dated 8th June, 1908 was enacted with an intent to amend the laws relating to explosive substances as it was necessary to amend such laws. The very first provision i.e. Section 1 of the Act dealt with the title of the Act i.e. The Explosive Substances Act, 1908. Further same section specifies application of this Act over the Indian citizen irrespective of their location inside or outside India. And the Act extends to whole and entire India.

Prior to the enactment of this Act, there was legislation more specifically dealing with similar matters namely, Explosive Act 1884 which makes provisions as to regulation of manufacture, possession, use, sale, etc. of explosive. The Act of 1884 also makes provisions as to grant of license to such persons competent under the Act and also provides for all relevant provisions as to such license. The Act of 1884 prohibits the engagement of persons below the age of majority, persons sentenced or convicted for offence involving moral turpitude, persons against whom execution proceedings or order is passed by Civil Courts or even the persons whose license under the provision of the Act of 1884 was cancelled by competent authority.

Further, Section 2 of the Act provides for important definition of the term “explosive substance” which many times used in the provisions of the Act. The term Explosive substance means any materials used for producing any explosives. The definition is very wide enough to include any apparatus, machine, implement or material used or intended to be used, or adapted for causing, or aiding in causing, any explosion in explosive substance and also any part thereof. The Act was amended in the year 2001 by The Explosive Substances (Amendment) Act, 2001, wherein the definition of Explosive Substances elaborated and its scope was enlarged by including Special Category of Explosive Substance inclusive of list of substances provided under clause (b) of the Section 2 of the Act.

Any person causing explosion by using explosive substances unlawfully, which posing danger to life or seriously injures the property, such persons should be punished as provided under Section 3 of the original Act with transportation for lifetime or shorter period not only this but it may include fine also. However, Section 3 of the amended Act provides for life imprisonment or rigorous imprisonment extends to maximum period of 10 years in addition to fine. And same section of Amended Act specks for offences relating to special category of explosive substances, wherein punishment can be extended to death penalty or life imprisonment with fine.

Similarly, Section 4 of the original Act dealt with punishment as to attempt for causing explosion or keeping or making such explosive unlawfully for causing danger to life or even to property in India. And if any such person enables others for doing same act should be punished with 20 years transportation in addition to fine or even with imprisonment which can exceed to 7 years in addition to fine. Similar to above Section 3 of the Act, here also Section 4 of the Amended Act makes changes in punishment where punishment can be extended to life imprisonment or imprisonment extending to 10 years with fine and in case of special category explosive substance punishment may extend to rigorous life imprisonment or with 10 years rigorous imprisonment with fine.

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Persons making or possessing explosive substances under such circumstances leads to reasonable doubt or suspicion that such making or possessing of substances are with lawful purpose, such persons should also be punished with transportation which can exceed to 14 years in addition to fine or even he may be imprisoned up to 5 years in addition to fine as per Section 5 of the original Act. However, as per Amended provision, the punishment is changed to imprisonment for 10 years with fine and in case of special category explosive substance; punishment extends to rigorous life imprisonment or with rigorous imprisonment for 10 years period in addition to fine.

Similarly, Section 6 of the Act makes provisions for abetment of such act resulting into an offence, also punishable under same Section. Any such persons abetting the commission of such Offence under the Act should be equally treated as the offence has been committed by them and liable to similar punishment as that of offender. Further, Section 7 says that every trial under this Act should be commenced or proceeded only with the previous consent of Central Government. However, the as per the Amendment Act of 2001 the consent of Central Government was substituted with the consent of District Magistrate. Now, for the commencement of trial under the provisions of this Act, the condition precedent is to have consent of District Magistrate instead of taking consent of Central Government.

In Masha Angami And Anr. vs Government Of Manipur (1967) the Hon’ble Guahati High Court held Gun-powder is also an explosive substance within the meaning of Section 2 of the Explosive Substances Act, 1908. Further, Court observed that, if there is reasonable suspicion being prima facie that the person accused found in possession of gun-powder with unlawful object then he is not entitled to bail.

The another important decision specifying importance of unlawful object is Rajani Kanta Mandal v. State of Bihar, where it was held that to substantiate a charge under Section 5 of the Act, proving conscious possession of an Accused thereof is not sufficient, but such possession must be related with unlawful object. As such judiciary also has played vital important role in determining and clearing the scope of this Act and also clarified its applicability in many landmark decisions.

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by Faim Khalilkhan Pathan