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Arms Act, 1959

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The Arms Act, 1959
Arms Act, 1959
Parliament of India
  • An Act to consolidate and amend the law relating to arms and ammunition.
CitationAct No. 54 of 1959
Territorial extentIndia
Assented tor 1959
Commenced1 October 1962
Status: In force

The Arms Act, 1959 is an Act of the Parliament of India to consolidate and amend the law relating to arms and ammunition in order to curb illegal weapons and violence stemming from them.[1] It replaced the Indian Arms Act, 1878.

The Arms Act was passed in 1959.


The act is divided into six chapters.[2]

  • Chapter I: Preliminary (Section 1 & 2)
    Provides a short title and definitions of terms used in the act
  • Chapter II: Acquisition, Possession, Manufacture, Sale, Import, Export, and Transport of Arms and Ammunition (Section 3 to 12)
    Explains rules and regulations around acquisition, possession, manufacture, sale, import, export and transport of arms and ammunition in India.
  • Chapter III: Provisions relating to licences (Section 13 to 18)
    Details how to procure license, rules around grant, refusal, fees for license.
  • Chapter IV: Powers and Procedure (Section 19 to 24B)
    Provides details on the powers that the government officials have to enforce this act.
  • Chapter V: Offences and penalties (Section 25 to 33)
    Explains punishments associated with breaking rules related to this act.
  • Chapter VI: Miscellaneous (Section 34 to 46)
    Deals with the other miscellaneous parts of the act such as exemptions.

Current affairs[edit]

The Act has undergone many changes since 1959, the most recent being in 2010 through an amendment for the Arms Act.[3] There was also controversy around air guns to be included as part of this act which was rejected by the Supreme Court of India.[4]

Previous legislation[edit]

The Indian Arms Act, 1878 was an act regulating the manufacture, sale, possession, and carry of firearms.

Prior to the Indian Rebellion of 1857, there were few gun control laws in Colonial India.[5]

The act included the mandatory licensing to carry a weapon, but contained exclusions for some groups and persons, for instance "all persons of Kodava (Coorg) race".[6]

In a 1918 recruitment leaflet for World War I, Mahatma Gandhi voiced disapproval of the act:

Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest. If we want the Arms Act to be repealed, if we want to learn the use of arms, here is a golden opportunity. If the middle classes render voluntary help to Government in the hour of its trial, distrust will disappear, and the ban on possessing arms will be withdrawn.[7]

In The New Cambridge History of India: Science, Technology and Medicine in Colonial India, historian David Arnold noted the effect of the British rule on weapons, mining and metallurgy in India:[8]

The British were aware of the part metal-working had played in supporting indigenous powers in the past through the production of arms and ammunition, and, just as they introduced an Arms Act in 1878 to restrict Indian access to firearms, so they sought to limit India's ability to mine and work metals that might sustain it in future wars and rebellions. This was especially the case with Rajasthan, a region rich in metals. In the 1820s James Tod identified the ‘mines of Mewar’ as one of the means that had enabled its masters ‘so long to struggle against superior power, and to raise those magnificent structures which would do honour to the most potent kingdoms of the west’. Indian skill in the difficult art of casting brass cannon had made Indian artillery a formidable adversary from the reign of Akbar to the Maratha and Sikh wars 300 years later. But by the early 19th century most of the mines in Rajasthan had been abandoned: the caste of miners was ‘extinct’.

Prohibited and Non-Prohibited Bore[edit]

The Arms Act classifies firearms into two categories: Prohibited Bore and Non-Prohibited Bore. All automatic firearms and semi-automatic firearms except pistols fall under the Prohibited Bore category. Any firearm which can chamber and fire ammunition of the caliber .303, 7.62mm; 410,380; .455; .45 rimless; 9mm is specified as Prohibited Bore under The Arms Act of 1962. Smooth bore guns having barrel of less than 20" in length are also specified as Prohibited Bore guns. The common firearms which are provided to people with a license under this Act are double barreled shotguns of 12 gauge (DBBL 12 Bore), common firearms are 0.315 bolt-action rifles (magazine capacity of 5 cartridges) and 0.32 Smith&Wesson Long revolvers (chamber capacity of 6 cartridges), 0.35" semi-automatic pistols and 12 Bore pump-action shotguns. [9] [10]

Stun Guns and Tasers[edit]

Under Indian Arms Act, 1956 stun guns and tasers are illegal to own and are considered as prohibited arms under Section 25 (1A) of the Arms Act.[11]

Knife legislation[edit]

Edged weapons like swords, machetes, spears, bowie knives and stilettos require license under the Arms Act. Sword sticks, daggers, throwing knives, bayonets and switchblades are illegal. Edged weapons are illegal to carry in public places, educational institutes, airports, railway stations and metro stations is illegal. Any knife with a blade length exceeding 9 inches or a blade width exceeding 2 inches will be considered illegal to carry.[12]

Pepper Spray[edit]

Pepper spray is legal and doesn't require a license or documentation to buy one. However, manufacturers need a government license. The rules of carrying pepper spray in public transport are unclear, especially in metro trains where the permission to carry it remains under the discretion of the Central Industrial Security Force due to risks of people carrying poison gas in pepper spray cans.[13]

Open Carry[edit]

Some restrictions may be in place to accommodate religious customs and beliefs. In these cases, specific groups may be able to carry knives according to their religious laws. For example, Nihang Sikhs can carry edged weapons and firearms after obtaining a license under the Arms Act and all Khalsa Sikhs are allowed to carry the kirpan in public.[14][15] The Gurkha community is allowed to open carry khukris. However, there may be restrictions on the size of the kirpan that can be carried in public, and some states have specific laws against it. The Kodava community is allowed to carry swords and firearms without license only within the Kodagu district. In 2004 the Ananda Marga sect have been allowed to carry Trishulas (Trident) and knives in their religious processions. Shia Muslims are allowed to carry swords and knives but only during Muharram processions after obtaining permission from the respective local police department.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Terrorism Legislation Database". Archived from the original on 5 November 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-07.
  2. ^ "Indian Arms Act 1959 - Index". Archived from the original on 15 May 2015. Retrieved 25 April 2015.
  3. ^ "Cabinet approves tougher provisions for Arms Act". Hindustan Times. 15 July 2010. Archived from the original on 25 April 2015. Retrieved 25 April 2015.
  4. ^ Sharma, Shreyas (5 January 2012). "Supreme Court stays order classifying air guns as firearms". India Today. New Delhi, India. Retrieved 25 April 2015.
  5. ^ "Gun Control and Indian Arms Act 1877 During the Days of the Raj".
  6. ^ Punjab (India); Sir Henry Adolphus Byden Rattigan; Alweyne Turner; North-west Frontier Province (India) (1897). The Bengal regulations: the acts of the governor-general in council, and the frontier regulations ... applicable to the Punjab, with notes and an index. Civil and Military Gazette Press. pp. 1189–. Retrieved 22 July 2011.
  7. ^ "What Gandhi really thought about guns". 4 February 2013.
  8. ^ Arnold, 100-101
  9. ^ https://ddpdoo.gov.in/product/products/category/civil-trade---arms-details
  10. ^ https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-625-law-on-firearm.html#:~:text=The%20Arms%20Act%20classifies%20firearms,fire%20ammunition%20of%20the%20caliber%20.
  11. ^ LIMITED, MYADVO TECHSERVE PRIVATE. "Is Stun Gun Legal in India as the Air Gun?". MyAdvo.in. Retrieved 21 July 2023.
  12. ^ Smith, Mr (30 March 2023). "India Knife Laws - Things To Know Before Purchasing Or Using A Knife". Homestead Authority. Retrieved 21 July 2023.
  13. ^ "Carry pepper spray for safety: Cops. Not allowed on the Metro!: CISF". The Times of India. 14 January 2017. ISSN 0971-8257. Retrieved 21 July 2023.
  14. ^ Smith, Mr (30 March 2023). "India Knife Laws - Things To Know Before Purchasing Or Using A Knife". Homestead Authority. Retrieved 21 July 2023.
  15. ^ "Nihangs: All You Need To Know About This Sikh Sect". Retrieved 21 July 2023.
  16. ^ "Is it legal to carry weapons in processions | Explainer".