STATE TIMES NEWS
JAMMU/SRINAGAR/NEW DELHI: The CBI on Saturday conducted searches at 40 locations in Jammu and Kashmir, and in the national capital in connection with cases related to alleged irregularities in the issuance of over 2.78 lakh arms licenses to non-residents on forged documents during 2012-16, officials said.The search operation was spread across Jammu, Srinagar, Udhampur, Rajouri, Anantnag, Baramulla and Delhi at the official and residential premises of public servants, including IAS officers, around 20 gun houses among others in an ongoing investigation of a case related to arms licenses racket, a CBI spokesperson said in a statement.Premises of two IAS officers — Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, posted as Secretary of Tribal Affairs in the Jammu and Kashmir government, and Niraj Kumar, Additional Resident Commissioner of UT in the national capital — were searched, the officials said.CBI also conducted raids at the shop of Bhargav Arms Company at Shiv Market in Jammu, Dashmesh Gun House Miran Sahib, Om Parkash Gun house Paloura , Avatar Gun House Nowabad, Ruksana Gun house Ward number 4 Rajouri, S K Arms Gun House Barnai Road, Bantalab and Gun house at Shakeel Shah Market at Udhampur.“With reference to media reports, I have to confirm that CBI did search my residence and found nothing incriminating in ongoing arms licenses probe. Media friends may note the probe covers 4 years across all districts. I am fully answerable to CBI for my tenure,” Shahid Choudhary 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 licenses issued in Udhampur between 2012-16, only 1,500 odd were (less than 4 per cent) issued under my tenure,” Choudhary said, adding that this number was the lowest among licenses 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 licenses 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 licenses 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 licenses issued in three districts in four years or during the period under investigation and 0.38 per cent of all such licenses were issued in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.The residence of retired officer of Kashmir Administrative Service, Shabir Ahmad Bhat, who has served as DM of Rajouri, was also searched, the officials said.Besides this, premises of six additional DMs who had served in Poonch, Kupwara, Bandipora, Baramulla and Ramban during 2012-16 were also searched by the CBI, they said.The agency had registered two separate FIRs into the alleged irregularities on October 16, 2018.The CBI had in December 2019 carried out searches at over a dozen locations in Srinagar, Jammu, Gurgaon 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.“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,” CBI spokesperson R C Joshi said in a statement.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 CBI also collected documents pertaining to the issuance of said armed licenses allegedly spread over 22 districts of J-K,” Joshi said.The Rajasthan ATS had unearthed the scandal in 2017 and had arrested over 50 people for their alleged involvement in the illegal issuance of arms licenses. 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.CBI had registered two cases on the request of J & K Government and further Notification from Government of India, and taken over the investigation of two FIRs—18 of 2018 dated May 17, 2018 earlier registered at Police Station Vigilance Organisation Kashmir (VOK) and FIR 11 of 2018 dated May 17,.2018 of Police Station Vigilance Organisation Jammu (VOJ) on the allegations of bulk issuance of arms licenses in the erstwhile State of J & K during the period 2012 to 2016.The CBI may have found “procedural errors” in 15-20 arms licences among the 1,700 issued in Udhampur during the one-year tenure of Shahid Iqbal Choudhary as Deputy Commissioner, his brother Zafar Iqbal Choudhary said. Zafar Choudhary’s residence was also searched by the agency.Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir being the headquarters of the Northern Command of the army receives a lot of applications from retiring soldiers, Zafar Choudhary said.During the period of 2012-16, which is under CBI probe, 36,000 such arms licenses were issued from Udhampur district of which about 1,700 or around four per cent were issued during the tenure of IAS officer Shahid Choudhary, who was posted as deputy commissioner from May 2015 to May 2016, he said.Zafar Choudhary said that among these, procedural errors were found in 15-20 such licenses issued during Shahid Choudhary’s tenure.He said the IAS officer has a spotless career of 16 years in the civil services with no irregularity reported under his watch and no allegation against him.“There is absolutely no question of corruption in the process of issuing arms licences under his watch. Any pecuniary consideration is not even thinkable,” Zafar Choudhary said. The CBI had questioned Shahid Choudhary twice between September and November 2019 at its Chandigarh office as a witness under Section 61 of the CrPC, he said.
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