Par panel raps HM over arms policy

New Delhi, june 3 (PTI): A Parliamentary committee has strongly criticised the Home Ministry for hurriedly implementing many new features of the existing arms policy without seeking its formal approval and violating a decades old practice. “The committee fails to understand as to why the Government had not felt it necessary to seek formal Parliamentary approval before enforcing various new features of the Policy, which included inter-alia amendments to the Arms Acts and the Arms Rules even before introducing the amendment Bill and amendments to the Rules.
“...This is against the basic democratic principle of executive’s accountability to the legislature as per the scheme of the Constitution,” the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs has said in its report. The panel’s observation came in the backdrop of government’s proposal for incorporating new features in the ‘Arms and Ammunition Policy for Individuals’ and the ‘Arms and Ammunition Manufacturing Policy’, brushing aside its views on the matter. “The committee decided to examine the subject ‘Arms, Fire Arms and Ammunition’ and felt that till such time the committee had formulated its recommendations and observations on the subject, the Ministry should not finalise the new policy,” the panel said. According to the report, the Home Ministry had, on December 21, 2009, put the drafts of new policies on its website and invited comments from the general public by January 6, 2010, apparently ignoring the committee’s view for putting it on hold. “The committee is constrained to note that instead of responding to its suggestions and advice, the Ministry of Home Affairs went ahead with the finalisation of the revised Arms and Ammunition policy,” it said. The Parliamentary panel also came down heavily on the Ministry of Home Affairs as well as the Home Minister for making the draft policy document public before laying it in Parliament.
The policies were aimed at bringing changes in certain procedures for acquisition and possession of firearms by individuals, police verification before grant of arms licences, quantity of ammunition permitted under various categories, renewal of arms licences, sale of ordinary weapons and for maintaining database for licences issued among other amendments. Terming the course of action adopted by the MHA as “ab initio faulty “, the Committee asked the government to bring a comprehensive Bill to amend the principal legislation after due examination.