The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday upheld the exemption granted to every person of Coorg by race, and Jumma tenure landholders in Coorg (Kodagu district), from the requirement to obtain a license to carry and possess firearms under the Arms Act.
The order was in response to a petition filed by Capt Chethan Y K (Retd). On behalf of the petitioner, Advocate B V Viyulatha argued that the constitutional notification issued by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs on this exemption was not in the public interest.
To this, the Bench remarked, “The Kodava community which is a marshal community and Jumma tenure holders are enjoying the benefit of exemption since pre-independence.”
“They have rightly been granted an exemption for a period of ten years. It is not the case that they have been granted exemption indefinitely. The exemption granted is subject to certain terms and conditions. Therefore, the Constitutional validity of the notification is upheld in the petition,” it said further.
The exemption to the Kodavas has been granted under section 41 of the Arms Act.
Petitioner- ‘The exemption is casteist
Referring to Article 14 of the Constitution of India, the petitioner had submitted, “By giving such an exemption they are promoting caste and class, when there are 12 to 13 more other races, who practice the same religion and customs and they are in Coorg, but they are not granted exemptions.”
“Even other than Coorg, the whole of India is procuring license under the Arms Act, why only this particular race is given the exemption, there is no public interest forthcoming,” the petitioner submitted.
However, the petitioner’s concern was shot down by Additional Solicitor General M B Nargund appearing for the Union of India who said, “A kirpan is allowed to be used by the members of Sikh community and similarly, Gorkha community is permitted to use kukri.”
The advocate further argued that the petitioner ‘wants to get the caste system abolished’ and hence rejected such casteist favours granted to communities. Continuing her argument, she questioned why could not the community obtain a license under Sections 3 and 4 of the Arms Act?
The petitioner insisted that the exemption is not based on a geographical distinction, but it is by class.
SG Nargund opposing the arguments informed that the Kodavas even with the exemption have to undergo a police verification and the exemption certificate is to be issued by the police which is as good as obtaining a license.
Solicitor General- ‘Kodavas devoid of class system‘
In a rebuttal to the petitioner’s argument of the exemption being class-based, Nargund informed that Kodavas are a special tribe with no class or caste-based system.
“What the Kodavas worship are Cauvery Mata (River Cauvery), Arms and they do one pooja. They don’t have priestly classes also among them,” said Nargund.
SG Nargund concluded her argument by saying, “There is no fundamental right of the petitioner that is affected (due to the exemption).”
Limit to possess firearms
Senior Advocate Sajan Poovayya appearing for Respondents Kodagu Samaja Bangalore and Kodava Muslim Association also opposed the petition saying, “It is not like that if there are 100 people in a house they can have 200 firearms in the house, the quantity of arms and ammunition and the types of arms are all specified.”
The Karnataka High Court had disposed of the petition filed by Captain YK Chethan (Retired) in 2019 questioning the exemption granted by the Government of India by its notification dated December 26, 1966.