Since 2018, Delhi Police registered 380 cases for carrying live bullets to airports

Since 2018, over 380 cases have been registered and at least as many arrests made by the Delhi police against airline passengers found carrying live bullets in their luggage. 

Senior officers said carrying ammunition constituted the second-most common crime committed by passengers at IGI Airport, after passport forgery. Most passengers claimed innocence after live bullets or bullet shells were detected in the baggage scanner or by the CISF personnel. As per the law, they had to be booked under the Arms Act, arrested, and stopped from boarding.

The police said while most passengers carry the bullets inadvertently due to an expired licence or borrowing it from someone holding a valid gun licence, they have to register a case against the offenders.

“Majority of the cases pertain to passengers caught while boarding a flight from Delhi. There are also cases where overseas visitors arrive with live bullets inside their bags because the ammunition may not have been detected during security scanning in their country of origin. The ammunition is often tucked in a corner of the luggage and is detected when such passengers take a connecting domestic flight from Delhi,” a senior officer disclosed. 

Last August, a passenger had arrived at IGI Airport from New York and was about to take a domestic flight to Nagpur when he was arrested by CISF personnel for carrying a live bullet in his luggage. He could not provide a government authorization for carrying the ammunition.

“In many cases, the weapon licence is expired or the passenger fails to declare the firearm in his registered baggage. Though the passenger cannot cause security threat with such less ammunition, the police are compelled to initiate criminal proceedings as per law and the accused faces a trial,” the officer said.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (IGI) Sanjay Tyagi said, “Cases are lodged only after verifying the antecedents of the passengers. If we find he/she holds a genuine weapon licence in his home state or country, we let off the passenger.”

An arrest is made only when no link can be established between recovered items and the passenger or his family members, or the said licence has expired. The majority of the cases are ‘‘bonafide mistakes’‘ and the passenger does not have a criminal intent, Mr.Tyagi added.

Civil aviation rules mandate that a passenger can carry firearms or ammunition in his or her registered luggage, only in check-in baggage and not in the cabin, after declaring it orally or in writing at the time of screening and providing a government authorisation for the same to the airlines. 

Of all the cases lodged over the last four years, the police recovered eight unlicensed pistols and five unlicensed magazines from the passengers, they said.

The DCP added that intensified awareness campaigns are carried out periodically by both Delhi Police and CISF with several airlines at the airports, urging passengers to thoroughly check their luggage before security checks and ensure that no such items are kept inside their bags.

Another senior officer said, “It’s a bailable offence and in most cases, the accused are granted bail at the police station itself, but he or she still has to attend every court proceeding as and when summoned and face the trial”.

In the past, the police have also written to all Indian carriers at IGI Airport and Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), asking them to put out disclaimers on boarding passes and terminal entry points that carrying arms or ammunition on an aircraft without a legal permit will attract penal charges.

Most cases lead to acquittal where the court takes a lenient view on the accused after holding that the passenger was “not in conscious possession” of the ammo. In December last year, the Delhi High Court had quashed an FIR against a woman who was found carrying a live cartridge in her bag while travelling to Goa from IGI Airport. It noted that several orders of the High Court took similar action on the grounds that the passenger was not in conscious possession of the ammunition and hence, provisions of the Arms Act would not apply. 

In her defence, the woman, an IT professional, had claimed that she unknowingly carried the ammunition belonging to her father, who holds a valid .32 bore revolver licence. 

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2022 9:47:08 am |