The sleuths of India's premier investigating agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Saturday conducted searches at 40 locations across the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory and outside in connection with the infamous fake gun license scam.
Searches were carried out in cases related to alleged irregularities in the issuance of thousands of arms licenses to the non-residents on forged documents.
The searches were carried out in Srinagar, Udhampur, Rajouri, Anantnag, Baramulla, Delhi at the official and residential premises of the then public servants (including IAS Officers) and around 20 gun houses in an ongoing probe of a case related to gun license scam.
Reports said that the CBI also conducted a search at the official residence of IAS officer, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary in Srinagar in addition to the office/factory of a gun manufacturer in Rainawari area of the city.
Searches conducted at 40 locations
Official sources said these searches were conducted at the residential premises of some public servants including IAS and KAS Officers (some were DM or ADM then). It is alleged that these public servants were in cahoots with other accused while issuing arms licenses to non-residents of erstwhile J&K state (now UT) in violation of rules and received illegal gratification.
Rajasthan ATS, Madhya Pradesh Police exposed scam
The Rajasthan Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) and Madhya Pradesh Police had unearthed the scam in 2017 and had arrested over 50 people for their alleged involvement in the illegal issuance of arms licenses. According to Rajasthan ATS, over 3,000 permits were granted allegedly in the names of Army personnel.
Rajasthan ATS and Madhya Pradesh Police had found that at least 40,000 licenses were issued in J&K and a majority of them were found to be fake by investigators of both states.
Case handed over to CBI in 2018
Based on the findings of Rajasthan ATS and Madhya Pradesh Police, the then Governor of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, N N Vohra had handed over the matter to CBI for a thorough probe.
After taking over the case, the CBI had carried out searches at 17 places including the premises of two senior IAS officers in Jammu and Kashmir in 2019.
Searches were carried out at three places in Kashmir, 11 places in Jammu, and one each in Gurugram (Haryana), Mohali (Punjab), and Noida (Uttar Pradesh).
The CBI sleuths had conducted raids at Srinagar, Jammu, Baramulla, Udhampur, Kishtwar, Shopian, Rajouri, Doda, and Pulwama. Among the officials whose premises were raided were two senior IAS officers Yasha Mudgal and Kumar Rajeev Ranjan.
The residences of government officials Itrat Hussain, Mohammed Saleem, Mohammed Junaid Khan, FC Bhagat, Farooq Ahmed Khan, and Jenhagir Ahmed Mir were also searched.
2 former DMs, one serving IAS officer arrested by CBI
After conducting raids, CBI arrested two former District Magistrates of Kupwara -- Kumar Rajiv Ranjan and Itrit Hussain Rafiqui -- for issuing gun licenses "fraudulently and illegally in lieu of monetary consideration" during their respective tenures. Ranjan was in office from 2013-2015 and Itrit held the post from 2015 to 2016.
2.78 lakh arms licenses issued to non-entitled persons
It is alleged that more than 2.78 lakh arms licenses were issued to non-entitled persons from 2013 to 2016. CBI also collected documents about the issuance of said armed licenses allegedly spread over 22 districts of the erstwhile state of J&K.
Official sources said that during investigation and scrutiny of documents, it was found that some gun dealers, with the connivance of public servants, especially the then-District Magistrates and Additional District Magistrates (ADM) of concerned districts, had allegedly got illegal arms licenses issued to 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 verifies tenures of all DMs of this period
On Saturday searches were carried out at 40 locations including residences of then-District Magistrates including Shahid Iqbal. These are procedural issues and hence all DMs of that period would be verified by the CBI irrespective of doing anything or not.
"Out of 4.49 lakh arms licenses issued in J&K between 2012-16, only 56,000 (12.4%) issued in three districts of Reasi, Kathua, and Udhampur where I served as DM. This is not disproportionate", Shahid clarified, adding, "Of the 56K licenses issued in these three districts between 2012-16, only 1,720 were issued in my tenure, three percent of all licenses issued in three districts in four years or during the period under investigation and 0.38 percent of all such licenses issued in J&K."
"The licenses issued in three districts under my tenure have been among the lowest by any DMs in any district. Oversight or procedural indiscretion in few cases cannot be completely ruled out as this is passed through several clerical stages," he said, adding, "Of the 36,000 licenses issued in Udhampur between 2012-16, only 1,500 (and) odd (less than 4%) issued under my tenure. I've complied with agency queries, committed to do so in future also."
With ref to media reports I’ve to confirm that CBI did search my residence & found nothing incriminating in ongoing arms license probe. Media friends may note the probe covers 4 years across all distts. I am fully answerable to CBI for my tenure. Stats from my tenure are below ? pic.twitter.com/qhl60AFrGI— Shahid Choudhary (@listenshahid) July 24, 2021