Court query on screening panel for depositing arms during elections

The manner of implementing the state government's order asking candidates to deposit their firearms, without passing through a screening committee, with police stations during elections has come under the Bombay High Court scanner. The court was hearing four petitions about some candidates having already deposited their firearms while others have refused to do so.

The petitioners are challenging the Additional Collector's order of March 9 (based on EC's direction) to police stations to secure the firearms of individuals in their jurisdiction during election time.

Two of the petitioners' Vikas Shukla, an advocate, and Merwan Irani, a sportsperson, have already deposited their firearms. Their advocate Satyajit Joshi and A B Rai argued that there has been no screening of the individuals who have been asked to deposit their firearms.

According to Joshi, a screening committee should first categorise the owners to see if they have a clean record or are habitual offenders.

Counsel S R Chitnis who appeared for other petitioners said that they would not deposit the firearms in view of an earlier division bench order passed in 2000 which had held that there should be a screening committee to access the antecedents of the arms owner.

Chitnis argued that the additional collector's order was in contravention to the earlier division bench order.

Division bench of Justice Ranjana Desai and Justice Rajesh Ketkar asked the Additional Public Prosecutor Usha Kejariwal if they had a screening committee to access the situation. Kejariwal said that she had to take instructions after which the court adjourned the hearing till Tuesday.

As for the petitioners' who are yet to deposit their arms, the court has said that the Election Commission should file an affidavit by Thursday stating whether it is necessary for depositing arms before the screening committee.

Justice Desai, however, cautioned the state government that the court should not find things to be out of proper procedure.

... contd.

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