Chief Electoral Office cancels permits for another 166; 90% firearms deposited
State Chief Electoral Officer Baldev Singh and his deputy Dilip Shinde had revoked scores of gun licences and impounded weapons while the model code of conduct for elections was in force in the State. While licences for 166 pistols, revolvers and rifles were cancelled, guns were impounded from 34 licensed weapon holders and nearly 90% of licence holders (37,950 guns and rifles) were made to deposit their firearms at their respective police stations.
“Law and order is serious business, especially when the model code of conduct is in force. There are adequate provisions in the law to take action against those found to be wanting in complying with the law. Their weapon licences can be cancelled,” Mr. Shinde said.
State Inspector General of Police (law and order) Milind Bharambe said the licensed weapons were impounded by police where it was felt they were illegally being used to impact the elections. “The cancellation of gun licences were not actually related to violations of the model code of conduct. These licences were mostly cancelled where it was found that the licence was issued, but the individual failed to purchase or procure a weapon for a long period of time,” said Mr. Bharambe. Also, the licences were cancelled in instances where weapons purchased had been sold, and in cases where the licence holders were found to be involved in criminal offences, he said.
Committees under district magistrates, commissioners and joint commissioners of police screen weapons that need to be deposited, he said. The scrutiny process is carried out under a Bombay High Court order which said there should be an assessment of whether the licensed holders may impact the election process, and whether the licensed weapons were retained by them during the election process.
Mr. Bharambe said this has been the premise under which the screening committees have mandated which weapons needed to be deposited at the local police station levels.
Asked about the staggered pace at which weapons were deposited, he said, “While almost 90% had deposited their licensed weapons, the remainder may include some persons who are either abroad or on tour. Besides this, there are several other persons either employed as armed security guards at banking institutions as also persons living in some village or farmhouse.”
Mr. Bharambe said the data was limited to the police commissionerate regions and excluded data on licences issued under individual collectors across the State. “As far as the police department is concerned, we have ensured that even if someone is closely associated with a contesting candidate, we (the police) have to ensure that such a person does not continue to hold on to the gun or rifle during the pendency of the electoral process,” he said.
The respective (district magistrate-headed, police or collectorate-level) committees began the scrutiny process after the notification was issued in the government gazette on September 27, 2019. Nearly 90% of licence holders were made to deposit firearms at their respective police stations
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