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Stay on airgun licence rule

New Delhi, Jan. 4 (PTI): The Supreme Court today stayed a Delhi High Court judgment that had held that licences would be necessary for procuring air rifles and air pistols, which was coming in the way of training and competit ions.

A bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and J. Chelameswar sought a response from the Maneka Gandhi-headed NGO, People For Animals (PFA), on whose petition the high court had quashed a 1962 government notification that exempted the air rifle and air pistols from all regulations and controls under the Arms Act, 1959.

The Centre, the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) and manufacturers of Toy Airgun, Rifle, Pistol and Pellet Association had challenged the May 20, 2011, verdict of the high court.

The high court had rejected their contention that air guns used for target practice were not firearms as defined under the act but were merely toys and as such these did not fall under the purview of the licensing regime.

The high court had said “it is safe to conclude that air guns, air rifles, air pistols are not mere toys… and they are very much subject to the provisions of the act, being firearms”.

The PFA had contended that these arms were used for killing or maiming animals and birds.

The high court verdict had come as a setback for shooters and sportspersons below 18 years as the age limit to get an arms licence is 21 years.

The high court had said “no citizen has a blanket right to carry firearms. Its grant is subject to his applying for a licence and fulfilling the qualifications and criteria spelt out in the act and rules.

“The NRAI’s position that its members have a right to secure a licence is untenable. They have, at best, a right to apply for and be considered for the grant of a licence, subject to fulfilment of the prescribed qualifications.”

However, the government had taken a stand that as a result of the high court judgment, no sportsperson who is participating in international events and is less than 18 years of age will be permitted to participate in shooting events and no minor between the age-group of 10 to 18 years can possess or hold an air pistol.