After attacking Home Minister P Chidambaram on the handling of Naxal issue, Congress leader Digvijay Singh has now trained his guns on the Home Ministry for bringing in amendments to the Arms Act alleging that it undermines the citizen's right to keep weapons.
Singh, who is patron-in-chief of the National Association for Gun Rights India, on Wednesday led a delegation of MPs belonging to Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party and Samajwadi Party, who met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and opposed the changes.
The delegation included Jaswant Singh, S S Ahluwalia and Shahnawaz Hussain (BJP), Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh (SP), Naveen Jindal, Anil Lad, Sanjay Singh, Fransisco Sardinhia, Manish Tewari and Rakesh Singh (all Congress).
In a memorandum to the prime minister, it alleged that in the guise of moving a minor amendment to the Arms Act, ostensibly to make police verification mandatory and creating a database, the home ministry has quietly moved to change other important aspects of the law with the 'goal of undermining every citizen's legal right to keep and bear arms.'
"The ministry through its new policy has in effect changed the law and how it is implemented, without seeking parliamentary approval or following proper procedures," the memorandum said.
It claimed the very basis of the new arms policy is the flawed assumption that 'the proliferation of arms, whether licensed or illegal, vitiates the law and order situation' and added that it was not clear how the ministry arrived at such conclusion.
"In fact the ministry has admitted in Parliament that it has conducted no study/assessment linking firearms to rise in crime rate. Such statements are also a direct insult to lakhs of honest law abiding citizens who keep and bear arms responsibly, by equating them to common criminals," the memorandum added.
Criticising other changes brought in the law, the delegation said the new arms policy requires a citizen to prove grave and imminent threat to life prior to the grant of arms license.
It is an 'attempt to illegally amend the relevant sections of the Arms Act' which clearly outline conditions under which arms license applications are to be approved or denied, the delegation said in the memorandum.
'Proving grave and imminent threat' is impossible for an ordinary citizen and will lead to large scale corruption and deny honest middle class citizens the only means with which to protect themselves, it said.
The memorandum was also critical of the changes for issuing all India validity arms license. Earlier it was the respective state government who was the license issuing authority and now the Ministry of Home Affairs will issue licenses in all (non VIP) cases.