Calcutta, July 6: A gun licence numbered 1268/APL/ 91/CAL was issued by Calcutta police on April 4, 1991, the year the Bengali box office found two hits in Maan Maryada (Prestige and Honour) and Bidhir Bidhan (Fate’s Decree).
The licence allowed the lead actor of the two movies to possess a revolver made by Webley & Scott, the gunmaker that once armed the British empire.
Recently, the licence holder made a reference to the .32 Webley & Scott in a speech that has now become part of Bengal’s chequered political history.
“Tapas Paul nijer revolver bar kore guli kore diye chole jabe (Tapas Paul will take out his own revolver, shoot and leave),” the actor-turned-MP had said in a speech in Nadia, referring to himself in the third person.
The Trinamul MP’s speech has been broadcast across the country and Paul’s letter of “unconditional apology” has been circulated widely — which means the MP has accepted he had issued such a threat.
Almost a week later, Paul still owns the revolver and holds the licence.
The gun licence issuing authority — Calcutta police, in this case — has failed to initiate any action, in line with the political leadership’s attempt to cite the “right spirit” of the apology and let him off the hook.
The MP’s threat to rape and shoot rivals in itself is punishable by up to seven years’ jail.
Apart from that, by threatening to shoot people with his revolver, Paul has violated a set of Arms Act conditions laid out in the licence form, police sources said.
Section 17(3)(b) of the Arms Act says the licensing authority can cancel the licence for such violations. Under the section, the licence may be revoked or suspended if the licensing authority deems it necessary for public peace or for the safety of the people.
“Also, such a violator can be jailed for up to six months or fined Rs 2,000, or both, under Section 30 of the Arms Act,” an officer said.
Officers at Lalbazar, the Calcutta police headquarters, confirmed that no action had been initiated and no case registered against the MP till Saturday.
Sources said that although Paul’s remarks were made outside Calcutta, the city police could have initiated action on their own under the Arms Act, without a complaint from a member of the public or a nudge from Bengal police.
Paul was issued the gun licence in 1991, long before his political foray but when his films were doing well. Maan Maryada and Bidhir Bidhan, the two box-office hits of that year, also featured Satabdi Roy, now a fellow Trinamul MP.
“Paul had sought the gun licence for personal security. He has been meticulously renewing it every three years, as required. The last time he renewed it was April 3, 2012,” a home department official said.
Sources said Webley & Scott revolvers appeared popular among politicians. Many, including a Trinamul leader in the city and a BJP leader, owned Webley & Scott revolvers.
Gun licences come with conditions on the pain of cancellation. For instance, someone who has secured a gun licence for sports can’t use the weapon for his personal security.
“It’s clear that a licensee can’t intimidate others after securing a licence to use a gun for his personal security,” said a home department official who oversees the issuance of gun licences. “If the holder does so, it violates the conditions of the gun licence.”
Paul may have been spared but Calcutta police have in the past revoked gun licences for similar threats.
Four years ago, a Burrabazar trader had his gun licence cancelled after the police received a complaint that he had threatened people saying he had a licensed revolver.
“Some eight months ago, we rejected the application of a Trinamul MLA because he faced criminal cases,” an officer said.
Paul’s application would have gone through several layers of screenings with a senior officer of IPS rank clearing it at every stage.
Apparently, all of them missed one detail that Paul himself made public in the speech. “Ami Kolkatar maal noi, Chandannagarer maal. Rangbaji Tapas Paul korechhe (I am not from Calcutta, I am from Chandernagore. Tapas Paul has also been a tough).”
The illustrious history of Webley & Scott too has a nugget that may have escaped Calcutta police’s attention. According to Webley, its British Bulldog (once a popular pocket revolver but with a larger calibre than the one Paul owns) “gained a degree of infamy when in July 1881, Charles Jules Guiteau used one to shoot US President James A. Garfield in the back as he waited for a train. Garfield died two months later.”
Guiteau, who apparently picked a Bulldog with ivory grips so that it would look good as a museum exhibit after the assassination, eventually danced his way to the gallows.