The Sindh High Court says that National Database Registration Authority (Nadra) has no authority to issue arms licences and those it has issued are invalid.
A judgement authored by a division bench, comprising Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Nadeem Akhtar, declared that under the Arms Act, only the Ministry of Interior could issue the arms licences and Nadra has no role in this process.
The judgment was announced on Wednesday by another division bench comprising Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Aftab Ahmed Gorar.
The judgment says that if Nadra were to be given the task, the law needs to be amended. And unless new legislation is brought in, only the interior ministry can issue these licences.
Muhammad Ayub, a citizen, had gone to court against an announcement made by then Federal Interior Minister Rahman Malik, authorising Nadra to issue arms licences. Rahman Malik, had on August 8, 2011 announced in Karachi that all licences, which were not registered with Nadra, would be treated as cancelled and invalid.
Malik also announced that after October 30, 2011, computerized cards would replace the arms license booklets.
The petitioner Muhammad Ayub and 37 other also maintained that rules under Arms Act provide for booklet and hence issuance of cards was not under the scheme of law and thus illegal.
The petitioners challenged the new policy and maintained that Nadra was meant to prepare a record of all citizens and the licences was a sensitive issue in view of increasing terrorism, extortion, kidnapping for ransom and other major offences. He requested the court to look into the directive by the federal interior minister and declare the same as illegal.
The directive of the federal minister was in violation of Section 9 of the Arms Act thus liable to be set aside, the petitioners maintained pleading for restoration of old system of issuance of arm licenses on booklets instead in shape of a plastice card.
The bench had reserved the judgment after hearing counsel for interior ministry, Nadra and other respondents and announced the same on Wednesday allowing the petition.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2012.