Spell out norms for gun licences to private guards: SC to Govt

Terming the use of arms by private guards a matter of "grave concern", the Supreme Court on Wednesday took suo motu cognisance of the alleged involvement of private security guards in the gunfight that led to the killing of liquor baron Gurdeep Singh Chadha alias Ponty and his brother Hardeep at their Chhattarpur farmhouse on Saturday.

Four of Ponty's guards were arrested on Tuesday.

A bench of Justices D K Jain and J S Khehar, taking note of media reports on the involvement of armed private security guards in the incident, observed that the matter required close judicial scrutiny to ascertain the role and function of private security agencies and operation of any regulatory framework.

Asking the Home Ministry to reply to queries on different aspects of security agencies, the bench said it would specifically want to know if these guards were "just mercenaries" or were authorised to open fire under certain defined circumstances.

"A recent firing incident, widely reported in the press, resulting in the death of two persons, allegedly on account of use of firearms by some private security personnel, is a matter of grave concern. It raises serious issues regarding the role of security agencies, especially private ones. Some of the questions are of great public importance and need to be urgently addressed," the bench said, asking the ministry to file a reply within two weeks.

The court has asked the ministry to apprise it about the legal regulatory framework under which private security agencies operate in the country, the rights and duties of private security agencies under law, particularly with respect to criminal laws.

"What are the parameters/ norms that are considered for issue of firearm/weapon licences to private security personnel? What are the guidelines, if any, governing the use of such firearms/ weapons, by private security personnel; if not, whether it is necessary to frame definite parameters on the subject?" the court's order stated.

The bench also asked Additional Solicitor General Siddharth Luthra to explain in the affidavit if these personnel were imparted training before being permitted to carry arms and under what kind of situations were they allowed to open fire.

"We would want to know how are all these aspects dealt with under the Private Security Agencies (Regulation) Act, 2005, and the rules thereunder. How does this law and its rules apply in an incident like this and if definite parameters were still to be put in place," the bench said.

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