Calcutta, Jan. 23: Arabul Islam can breathe easy.
Records available with the home department reveal that between January 1 and December 31, 2012, the South 24-Parganas police had seized over 250 arms, mostly from Bhangar and its adjoining areas, from as many persons.
But only a few of them have been convicted. The rest are roaming scot-free on bail courtesy alleged delay in investigation.
"Last year, 258 cases under the Arms Act were recorded in South 24-Parganas. At least an equal number of people were arrested. Only 3 to 4 per cent of them have been convicted. The majority are out on bail because of the police's inability to submit chargesheets," a senior officer said.
"This is alarming since South 24-Parganas ranks fourth among all districts in terms of number cases under the Arms Act," he said.
The futility of slapping cases under the Arms Act in South 24-Parganas, senior police officers at Writers' Buildings said, was evident during the January 8 clash between Trinamul and CPM supporters at Bamanghata in Bhangar. Bullets were fired and trucks torched.
Sujit Das, a Class XI student from Bhangar, was admitted to a private hospital with bullet injuries. But the district police chief did not mention any firing in his report.
Nine days after the incident, former Trinamul MLA Arabul Islam was arrested and slapped with a case under sections 25 and 27 of the Arms Act along with a slew of other charges, including attempt to murder.
Officers admitted that if the case under the Arms Act against Arabul fell through because of lack of evidence, the other charges would also meet the same end.
"If one of the witnesses in a case under the Arms Act turns hostile, the case falls flat and this happens quite often. Witnesses often refuse to admit that they had seen the police arrest the accused with arms," said a South 24-Parganas police officer.
"Besides, certain procedures need to be followed and that takes time," he said.
The procedures, according to insiders, include getting the opinion of an arms expert (district arms inspector) and finally, a nod from the district magistrate before the chargesheet is drawn up.
Unofficially, police insiders said an investigating officer usually gives more thrust on probing serious crimes, including robbery and murder.