The Arms Scam

3 mins read

Mir Mudasir

On Saturday, officers of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) conducted raids at 40 locations in Jammu and Kashmir, and Delhi in an ongoing investigation in an arms’ licensing racket.

Over 2.78 lakh illegal gun licenses have been issued by district magistrates for money, the agency said, in what is believed to be India’s biggest arms license scam.

The raids were conducted on the offices and residences of public servants (including IAS, KAS officers, then district magistrate, then additional district magistrate etc) and around 20 gun dealers in Jammu, Srinagar, Udhampur, Rajouri, Anantnag, Baramulla and Delhi.  The case is around eight year old which was unearthed in Rajasthan when ATS found that fake gun licenses were issued in several districts across J&K. What was surprising for the officials of ATS they found that criminals who were involved in a series of crimes in Rajasthan had managed to acquire licensed weapons issued by the deputy Commissioners of several J&K districts.

Even during investigation of the case the officials of ATS found that thousands of gun licenses were given in the name of Army personnel based on fictitious documents.

Though the case was being investigated separately by Vigilance Organization Kashmir and Jammu, however, the then governor of erstwhile state, N N Vohra handed over the cases to the CBI in 2018 after he was briefed about the magnitude of the scam.

During investigation several deputy Commissioners who are accused of issuing licenses to the different people were arrested that included IAS/KAS officers like Kumar Rajiv Ranjan and Itrat Rafiqui who had issued thousands of licenses during their tenure as the District Magistrates of Kupwara and Udhampur.

After the scam came to limelight, the J&K government had asked the deputy Commissioners of all the districts not to issue any licenses till things get clear, even orders were passed for taking steps for revocation of all individual arms licenses issued to various persons, other than those to the army, paramilitary and police personnel.

Even the people were asked to deposit weapons in their nearest police stations for the investigations.

During investigation the Rajasthan ATS officials found that 1,32,321 of the 1,43,013 licences in Jammu region’s Doda, Ramban and Udhampur districts were issued to those residing outside the state. The investigations also led the officials to believe that a lot of money had changed hands while these licenses were issued in various districts and there were conduits in every district who managed these licenses.

On Saturday, CBI in a statement said the sleuths raided the offices and residences of public servants (including IAS, KAS officers, then district magistrate, then additional district magistrate etc) and around 20 gun dealers in Jammu, Srinagar, Udhampur, Rajouri, Anantnag, Baramulla and Delhi.

Earlier, the CBI had registered two cases on the request of J&K government and took over the investigation of two FIRs –registered in May 2018 at the vigilance police stations of Jammu and Kashmir divisions—over bulk issuance of arms’ licenses between 2012 and 2016.

The CBI statement said that more than 2.78 lakh arms’ licenses were issued to non-entitled persons. The central probing agency also collected documents pertaining to the issuance of the said armed licenses, allegedly spread over 22 districts of J&K.

“During investigation and scrutiny of documents, the role of certain gun dealers was found, who in connivance with public servants, including the then DM and ADMs of the districts concerned, had allegedly issued such illegal arms’ licenses to ineligible persons. It was also alleged that the persons who got these licenses were not residents of places from where the said arms licenses were issued,” said the CBI statement adding that investigation is ongoing.

Former deputy commissioner who now heads Tribal Affairs department, Shahid Choudhry was searched. Choudhry confirmed the development and said in a tweet, “With reference to media reports I’ve to confirm that CBI did search my residence and found nothing incriminating in the ongoing arms license probe,” he tweeted. “Media friends may note the probe covers four years across all districts. I am fully answerable to the CBI for my tenure.”

However, raids on several bureaucrats haven’t gone well within politicians in J&K who have criticised the raids.

Politicians React

Reacting sharply to a statement issued by the Apni Party on the ongoing CBI probe in arms license scam, Peoples Conference General Secretary Imran Reza Ansari has said that raids and investigations cannot define justice and a hardworking IAS officer cannot overnight be dubbed as violator of law.

“I fail to understand how a political party has decided to offer its unsolicited views in an ongoing investigation. If law is really to take its course then the queue would be really long. Someone who till yesterday was an honourable hardworking IAS officer looked up by youngsters cannot overnight be dubbed as violator of law.”

Imran said the Peoples Conference has been at the forefront in criticising the bureaucracy for lack of deliverance but such issues can’t be turned into a personal fight.

“I personally know the officer and I am sure he will come out clean. Our party has been at the forefront in criticising the bureaucracy for lack of deliverance. But we can’t make it into a personal fight. We know what problem the Apni party has with this bureaucrat. Using petty familial issues to actually target an achiever and demand for his arrest is shameful behaviour”, he concluded.

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