The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday declared the interior ministry’s scheme for the issuance of new arms licence cards through the National Database Registration Authority (Nadra) by replacing the arms licence booklet as “without lawful authority and violative of the Pakistan Arms Ordinance and Arms Rules”.
The interior ministry’s scheme, which revalidated and reissued arms licences by declaring all old licences invalid after October 30, 2011, had been assailed by as many as 38 citizens.
The impugned scheme and the issuance of card licences, being contrary to the rules made under the ordinance and violative of Section 9 of the ordinance, “are declared as without lawful authority and jurisdiction and no legal effect,” a division bench comprising Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Nadeem Akhtar said in the court order.
The bench observed that neither the rules in the arms ordinance were amended nor any gazette was issued in this regard, which was a necessary requirement under the law.
The interior ministry could not delegate its powers under the ordinance to Nadra, which had no powers to issue arms licences, the court said.
Mohammad Ayub and other petitioners impugned former interior minister Rehman Malik’s reported media statement about the cancellation of all old booklet arms licences issued by the ministry and a subsequent public notice that said that “new computerised arms licenses shall be issued through Nadra, invalidating the previous old arms licences”.
They argued that the scheme was very expensive and flawed and it not only put extra burden on the people but also caused heavy losses to the national exchequer.
They submitted that licences issued since August 14, 1947 could not be invalidated at once as they were issued under the arms licence ordinance and rules and no amendments were made by the respondents to streamline the arms licence issue.
The petitioners said the scheme was unlawful and against the provision of the Constitution and the arms licence ordinance and rules.
The deputy attorney general and Nadra defended the scheme by saying it was meant only for licences issued by the interior ministry and introduced following the observations by the Supreme Court in a suo moto case regarding the law and order situation in Karachi.
However, the petitioners said the scheme was in complete negation of the true spirit and directions of the Supreme Court and there was no link between the SC directions and the scheme.
The court observed that “Rule 41 (1) of the arms rules specifically provided that every licence shall be granted or renewed through appropriate form/proceedings but the impugned card licence is not subject to such conditions set forth in the prescribed form and it is therefore contrary to the form prescribed by the rules made under the ordinance which are still in force”.
The bench said that under arms rules, arms licence were required to be registered with the post office and those rules had not been amended yet and were still valid, but the impugned card licence did not have any such provisions for the registration or renewal of the arms licence by the post office.
“Without amending Rule 41-A of the arms rules, an arms licence could not be registered and or renewed by any other authority or agency except by the post office where licences are registered,” the court observed.
The SHC observed that Nadra also conceded in its submission that the scheme and the public notice had been issued only in respect of the federal government and in view of that admission no provincial government could issue card licences under the impugned scheme. Even otherwise, it said, card licences could not be issued by any provincial government in violation of the relevant provision of the ordinance and rules.
Allowing the petition, the court held that the government whether federal or provincial as defined in Section 3(1)(d) of the ordinance could not issue arms licences in violation of any of provisions contained in the ordinance or rules.