Two Former Deputy Commissioners Arrested

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SRINAGAR: The Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) has arrested two IAS officers on Sunday in connection with the issuance of over two lakh arms licenses in eight districts of the erstwhile State.

The arrests were made two months after the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) conducted raids at multiple places including office and residential complexes of eight former District Magistrates of Jammu and Kashmir in connection with the issuance of over two lakh arms licenses in eight districts of the erstwhile State. The investigating agency arrested two officers, one of them retired, including Kumar Rajiv Ranjan and Itrit Hussain Rafiqui, both former DMs of Kupwara district in Kashmir, The daily excelsior reported.

Ranjan is presently posted as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Metropolitan Regulatory Authority and Vice Chairman Jammu Development Authority (JDA) while Rafiqui has retired from the services.

Arrests of Ranjan, who has also served as the District Magistrate Jammu and Rafiqui, were the first in the officers’ category since the CBI took over investigations in fake arms licenses case from the then Vigilance Organization, now the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB). Only a day before, the ACB had booked Rafiqui in furnishing scam during his posting as the Deputy Commissioner Kupwara along with other officers.

“The CBI had registered a case in pursuance of notification issued by the Government of India with the consent of Jammu and Kashmir Government and taken over the investigation of FIR No. 18 of 2018 dated 17.05.2018 earlier registered at Police Station Vigilance Organisation Kashmir (VOK) on the allegations that during the period 2012 to 2016, then Deputy Commissioners of various districts of J&K including Kupwara had fraudulently and illegally issued bulk arms licenses in lieu of monetary considerations,’’ Excelsior quoted official sources.

They added that during further investigations conducted by the CBI, the alleged role of Itrit Hussain Rafiqui and Rajiv Ranjan, IAS, both posted as then District Magistrates Kupwara, Jammu and Kashmir, had surfaced during their tenure as the DM from the year 2013 to 2015 and from 2015 to 2016 respectively.

The case of over two lakh arms licenses issued from eight districts of Jammu and Kashmir is being investigated by the Chandigarh office of the CBI in view of the alleged involvement of IAS and KAS officers. A few days back, the CBI had arrested a private person Rahul Grover from Kashmir in connection with the case.

Ranjan and Rafiqui were called for questioning by the CBI in connection with the issuance of arms licenses by them during their posting as the District Magistrates of Kupwara. During questioning, they were arrested after completion of all legal formalities.

The CBI’s Chandigarh unit has registered the FIRs for alleged criminal misconduct and criminal conspiracy under the Ranbir Penal Code and in violation of Section 3/25 of the Arms Act, besides provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act in the arms license case.

Former District Magistrates of all eight districts were under the scanner, Excelsior quoted sources saying.

Eight districts from where bulk arms licenses had been issued previously included Kupwara, Baramulla, Shopian and Pulwama, all in Kashmir valley, Udhampur, Kishtwar, Rajouri and Doda, all in Jammu region.

A sample survey of licenses issued from Kupwara, a frontier district in north Kashmir, showed that no files or registers were maintained by the district authorities and many of the arms licenses may have been issued to outsiders on the basis of forged documents, sources said.

These were the first arrests made by the CBI in high-profile fake arms licenses case which had initially been detected by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) Rajasthan as some anti-social elements in that State were found using weapons based on arms licenses issued from different districts of Jammu and Kashmir. On the basis of investigations conducted by the ATS Rajasthan, the then Vigilance Organization of Jammu and Kashmir had registered a case which was later handed over to the CBI by the erstwhile State Government keeping in view alleged involvement of IAS and KAS officers during their posting as the District Magistrates in eight districts.

On December 30, the CBI had conducted simultaneous raids at 17 locations in Srinagar and Jammu, the twin rotational capital cities of the UT, and three other cities including Gurgaon (Haryana), Mohali (Punjab) and Noida (Uttar Pradesh) covering houses and offices of eight former District Magistrates/Deputy Commissioners in connection with issuance of over two lakh arms licenses during past few years especially from eight districts in the erstwhile State.

The officers whose premises had been searched included Yasha Mudgal, Managing Director, Jammu Power Distribution Corporation, Faquir Chand Bhagat, Javed Khan, Jehangir Mir and Farooq Khan, all former Deputy Commissioners besides Ranjan and Rafiqui.

“In addition to receipt of gratification, the arms licenses had also been issued to non-residents of Jammu and Kashmir in violation of rules,’’ sources said.

The arms license racket of Jammu and Kashmir was handed over to the CBI on the basis of a recommendation from Rajasthan Director General of Police O P Galhotra after the Anti-Terror Squad had busted a racket related to the matter.

The Agency had registered two FIRs in this regard with the consent of the Jammu and Kashmir government with the then Deputy Commissioner of Kupwara listed as an accused in one of them, while unidentified officials of various districts had been mentioned in another FIR, sources said.

It may be mentioned here that Jammu and Kashmir have issued more than four lakh gun licenses, second after most populated Uttar Pradesh.

The figures of more than 4 lakh gun licenses in Jammu and Kashmir are quite stunning as the Union Territory is infested by the militancy for the past three decades. Moreover, J&K ranks 20th in terms of population in the country.

The figures suggested that with a population of 1.25 crore, now for every 33 persons, there is a gun license in Jammu and Kashmir.

According to sources, 1,32,321 of the 1,43,013 licenses in Jammu region’s Doda, Ramban and Udhampur districts were issued to those residing outside the Union Territory.

The figure for the entire Union Territory is 4,29,301, of which just 10 per cent were issued to residents in the erstwhile State.

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