Updated: July 25, 2021 8:28:49 am
THE CBI Saturday conducted searches at 40 locations in Jammu and Kashmir, including the residence of former Srinagar Deputy Commissioner Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, in connection with a case related to issuance of fraudulent gun licences to outsiders during 2012-16. Choudhary is currently Secretary, Tribal Affairs Department, J&K, and CEO of Mission Youth programme.
The CBI had earlier arrested an IAS officer in the case.
AccordIng to the agency, it collected documents during these searches in Delhi and districts in J&K including Jammu, Srinagar, Udhampur, Rajouri, Anantnag and Baramulla. These included the official and residential premises of certain public servants (including IAS, KAS officers, then DM, then ADM etc) and around 20 gun houses.
More than 2.78 lakh arms licences were issued to non-entitled persons, the CBI claimed. “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 districts had allegedly issued such illegal arms licences to the ineligible persons. It was also alleged that the persons who got these licences were not residents of the places from where the said arms licences were issued,” a CBI statement said.
In a public statement on Twitter, Choudhary confirmed CBI had searched his residence but claimed it had “found nothing incriminating in (the) ongoing arms licence 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 said 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 1,720 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.
Choudhary, 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 1,500 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 a crucial period — pre and post-abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019. The decisions by the Centre had stripped J&K of its special status and split the state into two Union Territories.
The CBI had, in March 2020, arrested Rajiv Ranjan, an IAS officer and a former Deputy Commissioner, and Itrit Hussain Rafiqui, from Kashmir for their alleged role in the case. Both are former District Magistrates of Kupwara, the epicentre of the scandal.
The agency had registered a case after taking over a state police FIR in 2018. The FIR had alleged that during 2012-2016, then Deputy Commissioners of various districts of J&K including Kupwara had “fraudulently and illegally issued bulk arms licenses in lieu of monetary consideration”.
In 2019, the CBI had conducted searches at 17 locations across the erstwhile state, Delhi NCR and Punjab. It had claimed these searches had led to recovery of documents related to fraudulent issuance of gun licences, including bank statements.
The cases pertain to a gun licence racket which the Rajasthan Police claimed to have unearthed in 2017-18. Many people who received gun licences had criminal records, it was claimed. Following this, the then Governor of Jammu and Kashmir NN Vora handed over the probe to CBI.