The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought the Karnataka government’s response in a plea filed against a High Court verdict which had upheld the validity of the exemption granted to members of the Kodava community and Jumma tenure holders to carry and possess firearms without licence, the Bar and Bench reported.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana was hearing a plea submitted by retired Army officer Captain Chethan YK.

The Kodava community lives predominantly in Coorg district of Karnataka, the petition noted, according to Live Law. Meanwhile, Jumma tenure holders are people belonging to various agriculturist castes whose ancestors possessed a land tenure called jumma.

On October 29, 2019, a notification by the Ministry of Home Affairs had exempted the Kodava community and Jumma tenure holders from some of the provisions of the Arms Act, 1959.

“The arms or ammunition carried or possessed by any person being Coorg by race and every Jumma tenure holder in Coorg and herein exempted whilst residing or travelling outside the district of Coorg shall not exceed one rifle with 100 rounds of ammunition for the same and one smooth bore breech or muzzle loading gun with 500 cartridges or the equivalent in leaden shot and gunpowder.”

— Union Ministry of Home Affairs

In a petition filed in the Karnataka High Court, Chethan had sought to know why only one community was given this exemption, the Hindustan Times reported.

A senior counsel appearing for the Kodava community argued that the exemption had been since the British ruled India.

In September, the High Court bench of Justices Satish Chandra Sharma and SS Magadum had upheld the government notification and validated the exemption.

Chethan had then challenged this verdict in the Supreme Court. In a plea, he argued that the government notification creates discrimination based on “caste/race and ancestral land tenure”, Bar and Bench reported.

Chethan’s plea pointed out that according to the Section 41 of Arms Act, exemption from getting an arms licence can be granted only in “public interest”.

“However, no reasoning has been given in the notification on granting such exemption to the Kodava community,” the plea added.

The Supreme Court has now asked the Karnataka government to respond on the matter.