by Tahir Bhat
SRINAGAR: Federal investigator, Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) raided some 40 locations, mostly in Jammu and Kashmir. The raids were carried out in Jammu, Srinagar, Udhampur, Rajouri, Anantnag, Baramulla, and Delhi. These included the official and residential premises of various public servants including IAS and around 20 houses belonging to gun manufacturers.
This is the third round of raids during the investigations of issuance of tens of thousands of gun licences by the civil authorities in Jammu and Kashmir’s 22 districts in four years ending 2016. Some of these licences were used by criminals in mainland India and were used by cartels.
After the raids were over around 1 pm, the CBI issued the following statement:
“The Central Bureau of Investigation is today conducting searches at around 40 locations including at Jammu, Srinagar, Udhampur, Rajouri, Anantnag, Baramulla, Delhi at the official & residential premises of certain then public servants (including IAS, KAS Officers, then DM, then ADM etc), around 20 Gun houses/dealers in an on-going investigation of a case related to Arms licence racket.
CBI had registered two cases on the request of the J & K Government and further Notification from the Government of India and taken over the investigation of two FIRs i.e No.18 of 2018 dated 17.05.2018 earlier registered at Police Station Vigilance Organisation Kashmir (VOK) and FIR No. 11 of 2018 dated 17.05.2018 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. It was alleged that more than 2.78 lakh arms licences were issued to non-entitled persons. CBI also 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 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.
Investigation is continuing.”
Though CBI did not name names, reports said residences of two IAS officers were raided – Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhry and Niraj Kumar, currently the additional resident Commissioner at Delhi. Sources said the homes of two KAS officers, Khursheed Sanai and Hafeezullah Shah were also raided besides Shabir Gujree, a handicraft shop owner in Zainkaote and a gun shop owner in Anantnag, Majid Kotwal. No other names and locations were immediately available. As many as eight District Collectors are being investigated by the CBI.
Dr Shahid Choudhary
The residences raided included the official residence of Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, currently heading the Tribal Affairs Department. The residence of his brothers was also raided in Jammu. However, reports said nothing incriminating was recovered. In Jammu, the raiding CBI party handed over a document to the family that, among other things, has this line included: “During the search, no incriminating documents/articles related to the case were found during the search and no other document/articles were taken into possession.”
Shahid took to his Twitter to tell his side of the story. Confirming the raids, he said the CBI did “found nothing incriminating in ongoing arms license probe”. To explain his position, he attached a note that said between 2012 and 2016, 4.49 lakh licences were issued across Jammu and Kashmir and 56000 (12.4 per cent) of them were issued from Reasi, Kathua and Udhampur, three districts he served in this period. He issued only 1720 licences, which means 0.38 per cent of the lot that CBI is investigating. “In fact, the licences issued in three districts under his tenure have been the lowest by any DM in any district, the note reads. “Oversight or procedural indiscretion in few cases, not more than 15-20, cannot be completely ruled out as this is a human intervention process which passes through several clerical stages.”
The note further adds: “Udhampur district being headquarters of the Northern Command of Indian Army handles a large number of arms licences applications from the retiring soldiers..Of the 36,000 licences issued in Udhampur between 2012 and 2016, only 1700 (4%) have been issued under his tenure and only 15 to 20 of them have been found with procedural errors.”
It is worth mention here that Dr Choudhary has appeared before the CBI in Chandigarh in October and November 2019, where he was examined under Section 61 of IPC “as a witness in a case under investigation”.
The Case History
The gun licenses case came to the fore somewhere in 2017 when Rajasthan’s Anti Terrorist Squad found an alleged nexus between criminals and arms dealers and Jammu and Kashmir. A probe led to the recovery of 1178 allegedly forged arms licences issued in different districts of Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir – a bulk actually issued in Kupwara. Subsequently, it was pointed out that in four years, Collectors in Jammu and Kashmir issued 449 thousand arms licences. ATS Rajasthan sought custody of some officers named in the FIR but the then Jammu and Kashmir government refused the custody.
However, on May 11, 2018, the Jammu and Kashmir Home Department referred the case for investigation to the State Vigilance Organisation of Jammu and Kashmir (now Anti-Corruption Bureau) that registered FIR 18 of 2018. Off the camera and behind the curtains of the governance structure, there were tensions between ATS Jaipur and SVO JK as the Jammu and Kashmir government refused custody of officers. Rajasthan government handed over the case to CBI, so did the Jammu and Kashmir government in August 2018.
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In December 2019, CBI did a series of raids involving serving and retired officers at various locations in Jammu and Kashmir, Chandigarh, Haryana, and Delhi. These included the residences of two IAS officers, one of them a former DM of Kupwara and another a former DM of Udhampur. The December 30, raids were carried out at 17 places and included the residences of Yasha Mudgal, Managing Director, Jammu Power Distribution Corporation, Kumar Rajiv Ranjan, CEO Metro Regulatory Authority Jammu and Vice-Chairman, Jammu Development Authority (JDA), – both IAS officers, Faquir Chand Bhagat and Javed Khan, retired Deputy Commissioners, all in Jammu region and Jehangir Mir, Farooq Khan and Itrat Hussain Rafique, all former Deputy Commissioners in Kashmir.
In February 2020, another series of raids were carried out on the offices and residences of various officers across Jammu and Kashmir and some officials including a serving IAS officer – Itrat Hussain Rafiqui and Rajiv Ranjan, were arrested for questioning. The agency also arrested a private individual who was allegedly “involved in various financial transactions with other co-accused, including public servants”.