SRINAGAR, JULY 24, 2021 : Srinagar: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Saturday conducted searches at several places, including the official residence of senior bureaucrat Shahid Choudhary, in Jammu and Kashmir as part of its probe related to the arms licensing fraud.
The search operations were conducted at Jammu, Srinagar, Udhampur, Rajouri, Anantnag, Baramulla and Delhi. Several official and residential premises of public servants, including IAS officers were raided, CBI said in a statement.
The residence of retired officer of Kashmir Administrative Service, Shabir Ahmad Bhat, who has served as DM of Rajouri, was also searched. Also, 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.
Choudhary, who is currently the Administrative Secretary of the Department of Tribal Affairs and also the Chief Executive Officer of J&K Mission Youth, Mission Director, Skill Development Mission, Jammu and Kashmir, is being probed for his alleged role in the fraud. . He had served as the deputy commissioner of the district where several fake gun licenses are believed to have been issued.
Choudhary, the first Muslim to clear the UPSC exam from Jammu in 2008, also became the first person from the Gujjar community to achieve the feat. He was the serving Deputy Commissioner of the capital, Srinagar, when the Center abrogated Article 370 on August 5, 2019. Prior to this move, Choudhary, a believer in ‘fat things’, was among the key officials to implement Jammu. and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019
“Out of 4.49 lakh arms issued in J&K between 2012-16, only 56,000 (12.4%) were issued in the 3 districts of Reasi, Kathua and Udhampur where I served as DM. It is not disproportionate. Lowest number: Out of 56K licenses issued in 3 districts- Reasi, Kathua and Udhampur between 2012-16, only 1720 were issued during my tenure – issued in 4 years or in three districts during the period of investigation 3% of all licenses issued and 0.38% of all such licenses issued in J&K,” he said.
However, he acknowledged that there may be some procedural irregularities.
“In some cases inspection or procedural indiscretion cannot be completely ruled out as it passes through several clerical stages. Out of 36,000 licenses issued in Udhampur between 2012-16, only 1500 odd (less than 4%) were issued during my tenure. I have followed the agency’s queries, committed to do so in future as well,” he said.
Shahid Choudhary took over the administration of Srinagar during key decisions taken by the Center before and after August 5, 2019, which stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and bifurcated it into two union territories. He is presently working as Secretary, Department of Tribal Affairs, Jammu and Kashmir and CEO of Mission Yuva Program of the Union Territory.
In March, 2020, the CBI arrested an IAS officer from Kashmir and a former Deputy Commissioner for their alleged role in the fake gun license case in the erstwhile state. The agency had arrested IAS officers Rajeev Ranjan and Itrit Hussain Rafiqui after investigating that they had fraudulently issued gun licenses. The center of both the scams is the former District Magistrate of Kupwara district.
The CBI had registered a case in 2018 after taking an FIR of the state police. The FIR alleged that during the period 2012-2016, deputy commissioners of various districts of Jammu and Kashmir, including Kupwara, had “fraudulently and illegally issued bulk arms licenses in lieu of monetary consideration”.
“During further investigation by the CBI, the alleged role of Mr. Itrit Hussain Rafiqui and Sh. Rajeev Ranjan, IAS, both posted in the erstwhile district, came to the fore during his tenure as Magistrate Kupwara, J&K District Magistrate, Kupwara, Jammu and Kashmir from the year 2013 to 2015 and 2015 to 2016 respectively,” an official statement from the CBI had then said.
The CBI had searched the premises of both the officers in connection with the case in December, 2019. The searches were part of searches launched at 17 locations in the erstwhile state, Delhi NCR and Punjab.
The CBI had searched locations spread over Srinagar, Jammu, Gurgaon, Mohali and Noida in the premises of the then DC/DM Kupwara, Barmula, Udhampur, Kishtwar, Sopiyan, Rajouri, Doda, Pulwama. The CBI spokesperson had then said that around two lakh arms licenses were alleged to have been issued by their respective DCs/DMs from different districts of Jammu and Kashmir.
Alleging corruption on the part of these bureaucrats, the spokesperson said, “It was also alleged that the erstwhile public servants allegedly gratified in this conspiracy to issue licenses to non-residents of J&K in violation of rules.” was obtained.”
CBI sources had claimed that several documents related to the cases, including bank statements, were recovered in the searches. He said searches were conducted at three places in Kashmir, 11 in Jammu and one each in Gurugram (Haryana), Mohali (Punjab) and Noida (Uttar Pradesh).
The cases pertain to a gun license racket uncovered by the Rajasthan Police in 2017-18, where it was found that thousands of gun licenses were issued fraudulently by competent authorities in various districts of Jammu and Kashmir. Many of these people who obtained gun licenses were found to have criminal records.
After the revelations, the then Governor of Jammu and Kashmir NN Vora handed over the investigation of the case to the CBI. The agency had conducted simultaneous raids at 11 places in Srinagar, Udhampur and Jammu in July last year. These included complexes of private gun houses. The agency then claimed to have recovered several incriminating documents and electronic evidence that pointed to nexus between gunmen and bureaucrats to issue licences. (PTK)