Updated: July 24, 2021 5:43:36 pm
The CBI Saturday conducted searches at 40 locations in Jammu and Kashmir, including at the residence of former Srinagar Deputy Commissioner (DC) Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, in connection with the fraudulent gun licences case.
The case pertains to fraudulent issuance of gun licences to outsiders by state officials during 2012-16. The CBI has earlier arrested an IAS officer in the case.
According to the CBI, the searches were spread across Jammu, Srinagar, Udhampur, Rajouri, Anantnag, Baramulla and Delhi.
The premises that were searched included the official and residential premises of certain then public servants (including IAS, KAS Officers, then DM, then ADM etc) and around 20 gun houses.
CBI has claimed that more than 2.78 lakh arms licences were issued to non-entitled persons. The agency also claimed to have collected documents pertaining to the issuance of said armed licences 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 the public servants i.e. the then DM and ADM of concerned District had allegedly issued such illegal arms licenses to the ineligible persons. It was also alleged that the persons who got these licenses were not residents of the places from where the said arms licenses were issued,” a CBI statement said.
In a public statement on Twitter, Choudhary confIrmed that CBI had searched his residence but claimed it had “found nothing incriminating in (the) ongoing arms license probe”. “Media friends may note the probe covers 4 years across all distts. I am fully answerable to CBI for my tenure,” he said. He also claimed that the period of the case covers his tenure in three districts and that licences issued in his tenure were the lowest.
“Out of 4.49 lakh arms licences issued in J&K between 2012-16, only 56,000 (12.4%) issued in 3 districts of Reasi, Kathua and Udhampur where I served as DM. This is not disproportionate. Lowest Number: Of the 56K licences issued in 3 distts -Reasi, Kathua and Udhampur -between 2012-16, only 1720 were issued in my tenure -3% of all licences issued in three districts in 4 years or during the period under investigation and 0.38% of all such licences issued in J&K,” he said.
He, however, admitted there might be some procedural irregularities.
“Oversight or procedural indiscretion in few cases cannot be completely ruled out as this passes through several clerical stages. Of the 36,000 licences issued in Udhampur between 2012-16, only 1500 odd (less than 4%) issued under my tenure. I’ve complied with agency queries, committed to do so in future also,” he said.
Shahid Choudhary handled the administration of Srinagar during the crucial period of pre- and post-August 5, 2019 decisions by the Centre which stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and divided it into two Union Territories. He is currently serving as Secretary, Tribal Affairs Department, Jammu and Kashmir and CEO of Mission Youth programme of the UT.
The CBI had in March, 2020 arrested an IAS officer and a former deputy commissioner from Kashmir for their alleged role in the fraudulent gun licence case in the erstwhile state. The agency had arrested IAS officer Rajiv Ranjan and Itrit Hussain Rafiqui after investigations revealed that they had fraudulently issued gun licences. Both are former district magistrates of Kupwara district, the epicentre of the scandal.
CBI had registered a case in the matter after taking over a state police FIR in 2018. The FIR had alleged that during the period 2012-2016, then deputy Commissioners of various districts of J&K, including Kupwara, had “fraudulently and illegally issued bulk arms licences in lieu of monetary consideration”.
“During further investigation conducted by the CBI, the alleged role of Sh. Itrit Hussain Rafiqi and Sh. Rajiv Ranjan, IAS, both posted then Distt. Magistrates Kupwara, J&K has surfaced during their tenure as Distt. Magistrates, Kupwara, J&K from the year 2013 to 2015 and from 2015 to 2016 respectively, ” an official statement from CBI had said then.
The CBI had in December, 2019 conducted searches at the premises of both the officers in connection with the case. The searches were part of those launched at 17 locations across the erstwhile state, Delhi NCR and Punjab.
“CBI conducted searches at locations spread over Srinagar, Jammu, Gurgaon, Mohali and Noida at the premises of then DC/DM Kupwara, Barmula, Udhampur, Kishtwar, Sopian, Rajouri, Doda, Pulwama, in an ongoing investigation of two cases related to allegations of issuance of around two lakh Arms Licences from different Districts of Jammu & Kashmir by their respective DC/DM, ” the CBI spokesperson had then said.
Alleging corruption on part of these bureaucrats, the spokesperson added, “It was also alleged that the then Public Servants in this conspiracy of issuance of licences to non-residents of J&K in violation of rules, allegedly received gratification.”
CBI sources had claimed the searches had led to recovery of several documents related to the cases, including bank statements. They said the searches were carried out at three places in Kashmir, 11 places in Jammu and one each in Gurugram (Haryana), Mohali (Punjab) and Noida (Uttar Pradesh).
The cases pertain to a gun licence racket unearthed by Rajasthan Police in 2017-18 where it was found that thousands of gun licences had been issued by competent authorities in various districts of Jammu and Kashmir in a fraudulent manner. Many of these people who received the gun licences were found to be having criminal records.
Following the revelations, the then Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, NN Vora, handed over the probe in the matter to the CBI. In July last year, the agency carried out searches at 11 locations simultaneously in Srinagar, Udhampur and Jammu. These included premises of private gun houses. The agency had then claimed to have recovered a lot of incriminating documents and electronic evidence that pointed to a nexus between gun house owners and bureaucrats for the issuance of the licences.
On July 12, 2018, the Governor had even revoked individual gun licences issued between January 2017 and February 2018, citing unearthing of fake gun licensing rackets through “various investigating agencies, particularly ATS and SOG Rajasthan”.
According to Rajasthan ATS officials, 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 figure for the entire state is 4,29,301, of which just 10 per cent were issued to residents in the state.
A sample survey of licences issued from Kupwara, a frontier district in north Kashmir, showed that no files or registers were maintained by the district authorities and many of the arms licences may have been issued to outsiders on the basis of forged documents.
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