The High Court of Karnataka on Wednesday upheld that constitutional validity of the 2019 notification of the Union government granting exemption to Kodavas and Jamma land holders in Kodagu district from obtaining a licence to possess and carry firearms as required under provisions of the Indian Arms Act, 1959.
Exemption provided to persons of Coorg race and Jamma tenure holder under Section 41 of the Arms Act, satisfies the test of reasonable classification under Article 14 of the Constitution of India and the question of quashing the notification dated October 29, 2019, does not arise, the court said. A Division Bench, comprising acting Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum, passed the order while dismissing a PIL petition filed by Capt. Chethan Y.K., who retired from short service commission of Indian Army.
The petitioner had questioned the constitutional validity of the notification issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs extending the exemption for “every person of Coorg race and every Jamma tenure land holder in Coorg” from gun licence till October 31, 2029. It was also claimed in the petition that the classification and use of term ‘Coorg race’ promotes discrimination between the citizens of Coorg region on the ground of caste, violating Article 15 of the Constitution, the petitioner contended.
“In the instant case, the documents on record reflect that Kodavas have been considered to be a martial race from as early as 1890, and they are enjoying exemption since then,” the Bench observed while noticing that the Kodava community and Jamma tenure holders are enjoying such exemption since pre-Independence period.
“They have rightly been granted exemption for a period of 10 years, it is not the case that they have been granted exemption indefinitely. Exemption granted is subject to certain terms and conditions. Therefore, the constitutional validity of the notification is upheld.” the Bench said.
The latest notification of 2019, limiting the period of exemption for a further period of 10 years, was issued after the High Court, in an earlier round of litigation had asked the Centre to review its 1966 notification of indefinite grant of exemption from securing licence.