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To Curb Gun Problem, Make Bail Provisions More Stringent Like PMLA; Reverse Burden Of Proof: Amicus Tells Supreme Court

Title: Rajendra Singh vs. State of Uttar Pradesh

Citation: M.A. No. 393 of 2023 in Special Leave Petition (Criminal) No. 12831 of 2022

Coram: JUSTICE KM JOSEPH

Introduction:

The case introduces Senior Advocate S Nagamuthu’s role as the amicus curiae in an ongoing suo motu case in the Supreme Court, where the focus is on addressing the proliferation of unlicensed firearms. Nagamuthu proposes stricter bail provisions under various acts related to arms, explosives, and explosive substances. Notably, he suggests aligning these provisions with those found in acts like the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. Additionally, Nagamuthu recommends a reversal of the burden of proof, implying that the court should assume the guilt of the accused based on certain foundational facts unless proven otherwise by the accused.

Facts:

The case outlines several key suggestions by Senior Advocate S Nagamuthu in the ongoing suo motu case aimed at curbing the proliferation of illegal arms and ammunition. Firstly, Nagamuthu recommends the establishment of a government-appointed committee of experts to study inputs from various sources and formulate recommendations within a year. He also proposes referring potential legislative changes to the Law Commission to address inadequacies in existing laws related to the manufacture, sale, import, export, use, possession, and storage of arms and ammunition.

Furthermore, the amicus curiae suggests quarterly meetings of chief secretaries and police chiefs to assess the situation and understand regional challenges. The recommendations extend to supplementary measures, including changes in pre- and post-arrest bail provisions, expediting trials, presumptions of innocence, and establishing special police units and courts to fast-track investigations and trials. The focus is on strengthening regulatory measures and enhancing the effectiveness of law enforcement in combating the illegal arms trade.

Case analysis and judgement:

The judicial proceedings in this case began when a bench led by retired judge KM Joseph, in February, took notice of the concerning issue of widespread possession and use of unlicensed firearms in India. This matter came to light during the hearing of a murder accused’s bail application. The court, led by Justice Joseph, highlighted the ‘disturbing’ trend and emphasized that unlike the United States, where the right to bear arms is recognized as a fundamental right, the Indian Constitution does not confer such a privilege.

The court, expressing the importance of addressing the use of unlicensed firearms, specifically sought the response of the Uttar Pradesh government on the number of cases related to the possession and use of unlicensed firearms. Subsequent hearings expanded the scope, with the court urging not only the State of UP but all states, union territories, and the union home ministry to provide country-wide information on the measures taken to tackle the problem of unlicensed firearms. Apart from recommending improved implementation of the Arms Act, the court hinted at the possibility of legislative changes being necessary. The focus on seeking a robust response from all stakeholders and the consideration of potential legislative amendments indicates the court’s commitment to addressing the issue comprehensively and ensuring effective measures to curb the proliferation of unlicensed firearms in India.

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Written By: Gauri Joshi