The Supreme Court on Tuesday said the sale of Non-Service Pattern (NSP) weapons by the army to its officers should be done under “strict scrutiny and supervision” and in conformity with the provisions of the Arms Act and its rules.
“…the mechanism for sale of NSP weapons must be under the strict scrutiny and supervision of the competent authority in accord with the provisions of the Arms Act and the rules, including the Defence Services Regulations, without any exception,” said the bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud in their judgment.
The court said this while disposing off a public interest litigation by Supreme Court lawyer Arvind Kumar Sharma who sought action against army personnel for unauthorised selling of Prohibited/NSP bore-weapons that they purchased through the Jabalpur-based Central Ordinance Depot based on the orders passed by the Allotment Committee of the army.
The petitioner relied on a July 3, 2007, report of the Sriganganagar Collector that named army officers who had indulged in the illegal sale of NSP weapons they purchased from the army and which found their way to the general public, including persons with criminal antecedents and terrorists.
Noting that the authorities both at the Centre and the Rajasthan government had acted in the matter and proceeded against the army officers and those belonging to the Indian Administrative Service and others, the bench said in some cases action had reached its logical conclusion.
On the remaining cases, the court said: “We have no doubt that the appropriate authority/court will take the same to its logical end expeditiously in accordance with law.”
Directing the Centre to pay a cost of Rs 10,000 to the petitioner, the court rejected his contention that the authorities had taken a lenient view in awarding punishment to the erring army officers.
The court said the argument that authorities took a lenient view in handing down the punishments “though attractive at the first blush, on a deeper scrutiny does not commend to us.”
The court said its intervention might have been warranted if the case had been that all the army officers were awarded the same punishment or absolved and exonerated.
“Merely because some other punishment could also be awarded, by itself, can be no ground to continue with the probe in this public interest petition,” Justice Khanwilkar said while speaking for the bench.
Saying that nothing more was required to be done in the matter, the court said “there is no material before us to even remotely suggest that the punishment awarded against any particular army personnel is to favour him in any manner”.