SC Takes Notice Of Licences And Permits Issued For Carrying Prohibited Weapons

Issue came to light after a man was booked for stealing prohibited bore weapons during a robbery, prompting the court to ask why were prohibited bore weapons legally kept in a home

SC Takes Notice Of Licences And Permits Issued For Carrying Prohibited Weapons

The Supreme Court has taken notice of licences for prohibited bore weapons being issued to certain individuals such as chief justices, judges, ministers, and parliamentarians.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa has directed his office to make a separate file on 'Sub-Machine Guns and other Prohibited Bore Weapons'. Chief Justice Isa has also directed the office to register the file as a constitutional petition under Article 184(3). 

"The matter prima facie is one of public importance with regard to the enforcement of Fundamental Rights, including Articles 9 and 25 of the Constitution. Therefore, it be placed for consideration of the Committee constituted under Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act, 2023," Chief Justice Isa directed in his written order.

The matter emanated from a bail case CJP Isa heard, wherein the applicant was accused of dacoity and stealing prohibited bore firearms from the house. A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Isa and comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Musarrat Hilali had heard the case. 

According to the FIR, the suspect stole three sub-machine guns (SMGs)/7.62 (sic) bore weapons and a 9mm pistol apart from valuables such as gold ornaments and mobile phones.
"In view of the fact that the description of the petitioner was not mentioned in the FIR, this brings into question the identification parade. And none of the stolen goods were recovered from the petitioner, which makes this case one of further inquiry," the top court observed.

Mysterious case of owning prohibited weapons

During the hearing, the case investigation officer (IO) was asked whether he had asked the complainant or the owner of the stolen firearms to produce their licences.

The investigating officer informed the court that such a question had not been put to the complainant. The top court reacted that the IO's answer was a sad reflection on how the investigation had been carried out. 

In response to a query from the court, the complainant submitted a photocopy of a paper wherein the Mardan deputy inspector general had allowed him to carry a 7.62-bore automatic rifle for self-defence.

"We cannot ignore the above document, which had been produced before us in court, which purports to be a licence of a sub-machine gun (SMG), which is a prohibited bore weapon," Chief Justice Isa observed in the written order.  

Chief Justice Isa further questioned:

  • Under what legal authority had a deputy inspector general of police issued the document, which purports to be a license to carry an SMG, a prohibited bore weapon?
  • Whether licences of SMG and other prohibited bore weapons can be issued?

Meanwhile, the top court directed the secretary for the federal interior ministry, home secretaries and inspector generals of police of the provinces to separately submit their replies to the questions posed as the court issued notices to respondents. 

The order stated that if the answer to these questions was in the affirmative, then what is the applicable law and procedure, and who are the person(s) who can issue exemptions/licenses?

The top court has also directed the interior and home secretaries, as well as IGs, to submit the details of the number of licences, including permits, issued with regard to SMGs and other prohibited bore weapons and the approximate number of SMGs and other prohibited bore weapons in private use in the country.

"Whether exempting certain categories of persons or granting them the right to obtain licenses for SMGs and other prohibited bore weapons accords with Article 25 of the Constitution, which mandates that all citizens are equal before the law? Whether enabling the easy availability of SMGs and other prohibited bore weapons accords with Article 9, the Fundamental Right to Life guaranteed by the Constitution?" the top court asked. 

The top court has also issued notices to the Attorney General of Pakistan and the Advocate Generals of the provinces.

The court approved bail for the petitioner, provided he can furnish bail bonds, set at Rs50,000 and a surety in the said amount to the trial court's satisfaction.

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain