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 licences 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 licence 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.
“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,” 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 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,” 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.
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,” 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 spokesperson said it is alleged that more than 2.78 lakh arms licences were issued to the non-entitled persons during 2012-16.
“The CBI also collected documents pertaining to the issuance of said armed licences 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 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.