Basi Reddy, J.
1. Whether an authority acting Under Section 18(a) of the Indian Arms Act can be said to be exercising a judicial or quasi-judicial function with all its incidents, or merely an administrative or executive function which impinges on the fundamental right of a citizen to acquire and hold property as to which there is a divergence of opinion, there is a consensus of judicial opinion that an order cancelling a firearm licence, which does not satisfy the requirements of Section 18(a), is liable to be set aside by the High Court in the exercise of its powers under Article 226 of the Constitution: vide Bent Chand v. Dist. Magistrate, Banda A.I.R. 1953 ATI 476; Sudhansu Kanta Acharyya v. State, of Bihar A.I.R. 1954 Pat 299; Haji Md. Vakil v. Commr. of Police : AIR1954Cal157 ; Bugga Singti v. Dist. Magistrate Barnala A.I.R. 1954 Pep 150; Kishore Singh v. State of Rajasthan ; Narasimha Reddy v. Dist, Magistrate, Cuddapah : AIR1953Mad476 ; In re, State of Madras : AIR1957Mad692 and Vemuiu Thimmappa v. Addl. Dist. Magistrate, Anantapur 1955 Andh WR 355.
2. Section 18(a) of the Indian Arms Act, is in the following terms:
Section 18(a) -Cancelling and suspension of licence :
Any licence may be cancelled or suspended-(a) by an officer by whom the same was granted, or by any authority to which he may be subordinate, or by any Magistrate of a district or Commissioner of Police in a presidency town, within the limits of whose jurisdiction the holder of such licence any be. when,, for reasons to be recorded in writing, such officer, authority, Magistrate or Commissioner deems it necessary for the security of the public peace to cancel or suspend such licence;
3. It will be observed that the Section requires that an order cancelling a licence should on the face of it show: (a) that it was passed because in the opinion of the concerned authority such an order was necessary for the security of the public peace; and (b) that the reasons for forming that opinion have been recorded in writing by that authority.
(3a) The question for consideration in the present case is whether the order which is challenged in this Writ Petition is bad for non-compliance with the mandatory provisions of the Section quoted above.
4. On 27-2-1957 the petitioner, who is a Police Patel of Madanturti village, was granted a licence by the District Collector of Warangal for the possession of a 12 bore S. B. B, L. gun. The petitioner then purchased a gun. Within a couple of months thereafter, all on a sudden he received an order dated 17-4-1957, issued by the District Collector, stating that this gun-licence had been cancelled on 'administrative grounds'. The order gave no inkling as to what those grounds were, the Collector appears to have acted on some anonymous petitions.
5. Aggrieved by that order, the petitioner took the matter up in appeal to the Government under Rule 41-A of the Indian Arms Rules, but the appeal was rejected with the remark that 'the Government did not see sufficient justification to interfere with the Collector's order.
6. It is obvious that the order made by the Collector does not satisfy the conditions laid down in Section 18(a) of the Arms Act inasmuch as no reasons were assigned by the Collector for the cancellation of the licence. The vague formula 'administrative grounds', incorporated in the order, can hardly be regarded as 'reasons' contemplated by the Section. The reasons must specify the grounds on which action was taken and they must show at least 'prima facie' how the possession of a gun by the licensee would endanger public peace. Such reasons alone would sustain an order of cancellation.
7. In this context it is material to note that Rule 41-A of the Indian Arms Rules gives the aggrieved party a right of appeal against an order cancelling a licence; and if such an order is not a speaking order, the right of appeal cannot be exercised effectively. A mute order would rob that right of much of its efficacy and render it illusory.
8. It must not be overlooked that when once a person has been granted a licence and he acquires a gun, he has a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(f) of the Constitution to hold that property subject only to the restrictions imposed by the Arms Act and the Rules; and that right cannot be interfered with arbitrarily Or capriciously. The principle is now firmly established that where the statute prescribes certain procedural safeguards, they cannot be disregarded by the administrative agency to the prejudice of the subject.
9. The further question whether the impugned order is vitiated by reason of the non-observance of the principles of natural justice inasmuch as the Collector had cancelled the licence without giving the petitioner an opnnrtunitv of showing cause against the action proposed to be taken, Is a question which is not free from difficulty. In a case renorted in 1957-2 Mad IJ 249: ((S) A.I.R. 1957 Mad R92) a Division Bench of the Madras High Court consisting of Rajamannar C. J. and Fanchapakesa Ayyar J. approved of two earlier single Judge decisions of the same Court and held that notice and hearing are the essential pre-requisites of an order of cancellation, On the other hand a Pivision Bench of the Rajasthan High Court composed of Wanchoo C. J. (as he then was) and Dave J. in the case of AIJL 1954 Raj 264 took a contrary view on the reasoning'' that the statute does not advisedly provide for a hearing whereas it does provide for the recording of reasons in the order of cancellation; and therefore the introduction of the principles of natural justice into the statute is unwarranted.
10. In this case, however, it is not necessary to decide that question as I am clearly of opinion that the order of the Collector, as confirmed by the Government, has to be quashed on the ground that the mandatory provisions of Section 18(a) have been violated.- (11) I must at the same time point out that the licence granted to the petitioner has expired in the normal course and has to be renewed before the petitioner can validly possess a gun. Although the order of cancellation is quashed, it does not follow that the petitioner will automatically get a renewal of his licence. He may, however, apply for renewal and such application shall be dealt with by the concerned authority on its merits and according to law.
12. In the result this Writ Petition is allowed with costs. Advocate's fee Rs. 100/-.