CBI crackdown in arms licenses racket; raids 40 locations in J&K, New Delhi

CBI sleuths during searches at IAS officer Shahid Iqbal Choudhary’s Tulsibagh residence in Srinagar on Saturday. -Excelsior/Shakeel
CBI sleuths during searches at IAS officer Shahid Iqbal Choudhary’s Tulsibagh residence in Srinagar on Saturday. -Excelsior/Shakeel

Two IAS, 6 JKAS officers’ houses, many gun shops searched
*2.78 lakh licenses issued, many to non-residents; documents fudged

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, July 24: In a major crackdown on arms license racket in Jammu and Kashmir, the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) today conducted raids at 40 locations in six districts of the Union Territory besides New Delhi involving two IAS officers, six Jammu and Kashmir Administrative Services (JKAS) officers and number of gun houses/dealers in issuance of 2.78 lakh arms licenses, some of them to non residents on forged documents during 2012-16.
The officers whose official and residential premises were searched by the CBI teams drawn from Chandigarh and assisted from Jammu and Kashmir had served as District Magistrates (DMs) and Additional District Magistrates (ADMs) of six districts including Jammu, Udhampur and Rajouri in Jammu division and Srinagar, Anantnag and Baramulla in Kashmir.
The officers include two IAS— Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, presently posted as Secretary of Tribal Affairs and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Youth Mission and Niraj Kumar, who is posted as Additional Resident Commissioner of J&K in New Delhi.
Retired JKAS officer Shabir Ahmed Bhat, who had served as District Magistrate Rajouri was among the JKAS officers whose residence was searched by the CBI sleuths.
Besides them, premises of six Additional District Magistrates, who had served in Poonch, Kupwara, Bandipora, Baramulla and Ramban districts during 2012-16 were also searched by the investigators. All of them were, however, JKAS officers.
Shahid Iqbal Choudhary’s residences at Upper Bhatindi in Jammu and Tulsibagh in Srinagar were searched while Niraj Kumar’s office and residence in New Delhi were subjected to raids by the CBI officials.. Click here to watch video
Shahid has served as Deputy Commissioner of Udhampur, Kathua, Reasi and Rajouri while Niraj Kumar remained posted as District Magistrate Udhampur.
Gun houses/dealers, whose premises were raided by the CBI in Jammu include Bhargav Arms Company Shiv Market near Railway Station, Ruksana Gun House at Ward No. 4 Salani Bridge Rajouri, Om Gun House in front of BSF Headquarters Paloura, Avtar Armour Saint Market Jewel Chowk, Danish Armour Satwari Cantonment, Mukesh Bhargav and Sons Satwari Cantonment, Khajuria Gun House near Bank of India Satwari Chowk, Swaran Singh Gun House near Petrol Pump Below Gumat, SK Arms Gun House Gadigarh, Raina Gun House Gadigarh, Rakesh Kumar Arms and Ammunition Gadigarh, NKS Gun Shop Chatha, Pratap Gun House Gadigarh, Dashmesh Gun House Main Bazaar Miran Sahib and SK Arms Shop Barnai among others.
An official statement released by the CBI said the Agency sleuths conducted searches at around 40 locations today at Jammu, Srinagar, Udhampur, Rajouri, Anantnag, Baramulla and Delhi at the official and residential premises of certain then public servants (including IAS, JKAS officers, then District Magistrates, then Additional District Magistrates) and around 20 gun houses/dealers in an on-going investigations of a case related to arms license racket.
The statement said the CBI had registered two cases on the request of Jammu and Kashmir Government and further notification from Government of India and taken over investigation of two FIRs No. 18 of 2018 dated 17.5.2018 earlier registered at Police Station Vigilance Organization Kashmir and FIR No. 11 of 2018 dated 17.5.2018 of Police Station Vigilance Organization Jammu.
The FIRs were based on the allegations of bulk issuance of arms licences in the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir during the period ranging between 2012 to 2016.
“It was alleged that more than 2.78 lakh arms licences were issued to the non-entitled persons,” the CBI statement said and added that it has collected documents pertaining to the issuance of arms licenses allegedly spread of 22 districts of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir.
During investigations of the cases and scrutiny of documents, the CBI statement said, the role of certain gun dealers was detected who in connivance with public servants i.e. the then District Magistrates and Additional District Magistrates 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 licences were issued,” the statement said, adding that further investigations in the case are on.
The CBI had in December 2019 carried out searches at over a dozen locations in Srinagar, Jammu, Gurugram and Noida on the premises of the then District Collectors and Magistrates of Kupwara, Baramulla, Udhampur, Kishtwar, Shopian, Rajouri, Doda, Pulwama, and several other places.
The searches were carried out in connection with a probe into two cases pertaining to alleged issuance of around two lakh arms licences from different districts of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir by their Collectors and Magistrates. It is alleged that arms licences were issued in lieu of illegal gratification.
“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 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 licenses were issued,” the CBI said.
It is alleged in the FIR that then public servants in cahoots with other accused issued arms licences to non-residents of state in violation of rules and received illegal gratification.
The Rajasthan ATS had unearthed the scandal in 2017 and arrested over 50 people for their alleged involvement in the illegal issuance of arms licences. According to the ATS, over 3,000 permits were granted allegedly in the name of Army personnel.
Based on ATS findings, then Jammu and Kashmir Governor N N Vohra had handed over the matter to the CBI.
“With reference to media reports, I have to confirm that CBI did search my residence and found nothing incriminating in ongoing arms license probe. Media friends may note the probe covers 4 years across all districts. I am fully answerable to CBI for my tenure,” senior IAS officer Shahid Choudhary, whose houses at Jammu and Srinagar were searched, tweeted.
He said oversight or procedural indiscretion in a few cases cannot be completely ruled out as these pass through several clerical stages.
“Of the 36,000 licences issued in Udhampur between 2012-16, only 1,500 odd (less than 4 per cent) issued under my tenure,” Choudhary said, adding that this number was the lowest among licences issued by all DMs.
He said he has complied with agency queries, and was committed to do so in the future as well.
He added that out of 4.49 lakh arms licences issued in Jammu and Kashmir during 2012-16, only 56,000 were issued in the three districts of Reasi, Kathua and Udhampur where he served as the DM.
“This is not disproportionate. Of the 56,000 licences issued in three districts -Reasi, Kathua and Udhampur – between 2012-16, only 1,720 were issued in my tenure which is three per cent of all licences issued in three districts in four years or during the period under investigation and 0.38 per cent of all such licences issued in Jammu and Kashmir,” Choudhary said.