Otago Uni student in Indian police cells

A young kiwi found himself locked up in Indian police cells after live bullets were found in his luggage at an airport security check.

Alexander Ralph Harper, a 21-year-old student from Hastings, was stopped at Maharana Pratap Airport in Udaipur, Rajasthan, on Tuesday when security officials found three .22 rifle cartridges in his hand luggage.

He told police he had mistakenly carried the cartridges since leaving New Zealand on January 23 - but police were sceptical.

Parbat Singh of Dabok police station told an Indian news agency that the cartridges were recovered from Harper's hand baggage as he was boarding an evening flight to Mumbai and he was booked under the Arms Act.

"The accused said that he had a licence in his country and we received a copy of his licence by fax. We are examining it," Singh said.

"He said he was unaware about the presence of the cartridges right from his journey from New Zealand but this fact does not seems satisfactory because it was not the first security check at any airport for him during his tour."

Harper told local television the cartridges were in his bags when he left New Zealand.

"They were in a check-in bag so they were not detected. And then my toilet bag was in my carry-on bag when I went to Udaipur Airport and that was why they detected them there."

His father Jack Harper told the Herald on Sunday his son had been travelling with four friends from the University of Otago.

"It was a silly mistake," he said. "He has been on summer holiday and has gone off travelling with the boys. He had .22 bullets which he had been rabbit shooting with. He had them in his sponge bag and he had no idea they were there when he packed. How they didn't get picked up over here we don't know."

He said the Indian authorities and New Zealand consulate staff had treated his son very well and he was able to talk to him on Skype.

Harper was bailed to reappear on Wednesday . He is continuing his holiday in Goa with friends. His father said he was due back in New Zealand this month to resume university classes, but that would depend on the outcome of the court case.

New Zealand Ministry of Transport spokesman Brenden Crocker said if the cartridges were in Harper's checked baggage they would not have been picked up.

"It's not going to be detected and not considered to be a threat. It was only if he moved it into his hand luggage that it would have become a problem," he said.