The Arms Act, 1959 was enacted with an intention to consolidate and include certain revision to the legal principles dealing with weapons and ammunition to restrain illegal armaments and hostilities using these armaments. The legislation was enacted on December 23, 1959 which came into being on October 1, 1962 with six chapters consisting of 46 sections. The application of the Act extends to the Indian Territory as a whole including the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Act defines ‘ammunition’ as any weapon together with bullets, missiles, shells, torpedo used for underwater mining and articles and also includes any explosives, fulminating or fissionable substances or toxic liquid, gas, charges for bullets etc, fuse as well as resistance tubes and machineries used for the production of ammunition. It further includes the ammunition and armaments that are notified by the Central government specifically in the Gazette of India. The Act also defines the term ‘arms’ as objects of any nature that are designed and used as artillery as well as the arms, deadly weapons and the machinery and equipments used for the production of the arms but excluding those used for personal or agricultural purposes as provided under the Act. Additionally, the Act also explains firearms, prohibited ammunition and prohibited arms within the sphere of the purpose of the Act.
According to the Act, the measurement of the firearm lengthwise shall be taken from the muzzle till the spot at which the charge is burst on firing. The Act prohibits the possession, acquisition or transmission of any weapons or ammunition without holding license which is issued according to the procedure prescribed under the Act or the rules. But the law does not restrict a person from carrying the weapons without license, where such person holds such weapon under the written authority or in the presence of the real holder of the license for the purpose of renovation or renewal for the use of such holder.
Only persons prescribed under the Act are entitled to hold or acquire weapons or armaments. But after the implementation of the Arms (Amendment) Act, 1983 where a person not mentioned under the Act possess more than three arms, such person shall deposit the remaining arms to the officer of the police station within the prescribed period subject to the stipulations specified in the legislation. Besides, this provision is not applicable to a person who is a dealer of weapons or an associate of the rifle club or an organization approved by the Central Government.
Where the Central Government finds it expedient in the interest of the public that the holding, possessing or transmitting weapons are to be controlled, it shall expand the scope of certain provisions of the Act to that area as well. On such direction being issued by the Central Government, the persons in that area are prohibited from acquiring, holding or transmitting the weapons that are prescribed under the notification. Moreover, the production, sale, reassignment, covert or renovations of the weapons shall be done by a person only after obtaining license in the prescribed manner as specified under the Act. A person shall also get hold of the license for the purpose of shortening of cannons or alteration of imitation weapons into weapons. The Act further prohibits the possession or holding and the production of prohibited weapons as well as rules out the sale and reassigning of weapons that does not contain identification marks.
Additionally, license shall be issued by the concerned authority for the import and export of weapons subject to the restrictions imposed. The license shall be granted by the licensing authority on the fulfillment of necessary conditions by the concerned persons. The police officers or the authorities empowered under the Act shall require the persons possessing arms to produce the license before such authority for verification. The authority is also empowered to arrest a person carrying weapon found in suspicious situation. The Act also prescribes punishment for the contravention of the provisions of the Act or rules by any person dealing with weapons.
The Arms Act was amended in 1983 and further in 2011 by the Arms (Amendment) Act which came into effect on May 27, 1988 with retrospective operation. The amending Act enhanced the punishment for using prohibited weapons and causing death of any person by such Act to death sentence.