The Delhi High Court has asked the Centre to inform the embassies and the high commissions here that their citizens should keep in mind the local laws while coming to India. The direction comes amid a rise in cases lodged against foreigners, found with bullets in their bags at the IGI Airport. Justice R K Gauba told this to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) while quashing the FIRs lodged under the Arms Act against two foreigners, one from the UK and the other from Kenya, from whose luggage bullets were found when they were leaving India. “Having regard to frequency of registration of such cases as at hand, it will be in the fitness of things that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) sends a communication to all Embassies, Consulates or High Commissions in India advising foreign nationals travelling to this country as to the desirability to bear in mind the local laws… “… Particularly such laws as Arms Act so that inadvertent infractions of this kind as were the subject matter of these cases do not recur,” the court said in its order of May 29.
The UK national, a woman, had come to India on a valid visa in January for charity work and was returning to London on April 18 when the bullet was found in her baggage while it was being checked at the x-ray machine. In her plea for quashing the FIR, she had claimed she had no knowledge about the presence of the bullet in her baggage and said it might have been inadvertently left in her bag when it was being used by some of her friends when she was in Australia, prior to travelling to India. The Kenyan national, as per his plea for FIR quashing, had come to India on a valid visa for the treatment of his wife and the bullet was found when he was returning to his country on March 10.
He had claimed that he had a valid arms licence in his country and the bullet might have been left in his bag by mistake as he was not aware about its presence. The court noted that the averments made in the FIRs in both cases “do not indicate anything even remotely suggesting conscious possession”. It also said that while the possession of live ammunition by itself may be an offence but it would be of no use to the petitioners without a fire arm. The court said that in the circumstances, the theory of the petitioners that the bullet might have been in their baggage while travelling to India “is highly probable and cannot be ruled out”.
It also noted the government lawyer’s submission that the investigation in both the cases has not thrown up any evidence suggesting the petitioners were aware of the presence of the ammunition in their respective baggage. “Thus, in this view, carrying of the ammunition in the baggage cannot be described as conscious possession so as to constitute the offence under the Arms Act. For the foregoing reasons, the petitions are allowed,” the court said.