Are defective rifles resulting in the deaths of our soldiers? The Delhi High Court wants to know.
A bench comprising Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice R S Endlaw asked the Ministry of Defence to respond to a PIL, filed by Lt Col (retd) Deepak Malhotra, alleging that because of bureaucratic hurdles soldiers are made to use a “clearly inferior weapon” at the “risk of losing their lives”.
You [MoD] introduce new fighter planes time and again and why are you not thinking on this aspect [removal of INSAS]?
You [MoD] should do something for these people [military and para-military personnel using INSAS].
- HC Bench
The petition was filed in the wake of recent deaths of several jawans of the BSF in an ambush at Dantewada district, Chattisgarh. It states, “one of the injured jawans, in an interview on TV said clearly that the defective INSAS led to the massacre.”
The INSAS (an abbreviation of Indian Small Arms System) is a family of infantry arms consisting of an assault rifle and a light machine gun manufactured by the Ordnance Factories Board at Ordnance Factory Tiruchirappalli, Small Arms Factory Kanpur and Ichapore Arsenal since 1980. The INSAS assault rifle is the standard infantry weapon of the Indian Armed Forces.
The petition also quotes then Defence Minister AK Antony’s statement to the Parliament in December, 2012, where the Antony admitted the availability of “superior assault rifles” as opposed to the INSAS rifles in service.
The defect in these rifles has been known to authorities since long but because of bureaucratic red tape the jawans are made to make do with a clearly inferior weapon at the risk of losing their life.
Besides asking for orders to withdraw the INSAS rifles from active service and replace with a suitable modern firearm in a time bound manner, the petition also urged the High Court to issue directions to the MoD to produce the records pertaining to the long pending decision to replace “defective” rifles.
The armed forces registered their protest but still the rifles were labeled with such fanfare, the bureaucratic mindset could not stomach the rejection of the weapon by the armed forces and so insisted these be continued to be used.
The court has asked Ministry of Defence to respond to the PIL by July 8 this year.
(With PTI inputs)