The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Saturday raided the residence of the high-profile IAS officer Shahid Iqbal Choudhary and 39 other locations across Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi in the case pertaining to the alleged “sale” of gun licenses by district magistrates and other officers.
The raids were simultaneously conducted in the morning in Srinagar, Udhampur, Rajouri, Anantnag and Baramulla districts. The raids were in connection with a case registered by CBI, wherein it was alleged that between 2012 and 2016, the deputy commissioners of various districts of Jammu and Kashmir had fraudulently and illegally issued bulk arms licenses in lieu of monetary considerations.
At least eight former deputy commissioners are being questioned by the CBI in the gun license scam. This is believed to be India’s biggest gun license racket under which over four lakh gun licenses have been issued illegally from J&K during the period.
Two officials, including IAS officer Rajiv Ranjan, were arrested last year by the CBI. Ranjan and Itrat Hussain Rafiqui, during their tenures as Deputy Commissioner of Kupwara district, are alleged to have illegally issued several such licenses.
The CBI had described the scam as a “deep-rooted conspiracy”.
The scam was first unearthed by Rajasthan’s Anti-Terror Squad in 2017 when they arrested Ranjan’s brother and others working as middlemen for gun dealers. The then J&K government, however, protected the accused by ordering a vigilance probe. The ATS had said that 40,000 fake gun licenses were issued to non-J&K residents in Udhampur, Doda, Ramban and Kupwara districts on forged documents.
Initial probe revealed that an IAS officer had issued a large number of fake gun licenses to non-J&K residents when he was heading a district as Deputy Commissioner.
The case was handed over to CBI by the then Governor NN Vohra after he found the scam was being run J&K government officers.
Shahid Choudhury who is currently Secretary (Tribal Affairs) and CEO Mission Youth, had previously served as the Deputy Commissioner of Kathua, Reasi, Rajouri, Srinagar and Udhampur districts.
Reacting to these raids, Choudhary, who is a 2009 batch IAS, tweeted; “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”.
Giving statistics of issuance of gun licenses during his tenure, he said; “In the 3 districts of Reasi, Kathua and Udhampur out of 4.49 lakh arms licenses issued in J&K between 2012—2016, only 56,000 (12.4) were issued. This is not disproportionate”, he claimed. “Out of the 56,000 licenses issued in the three districts, only 1720 were issued in my tenure”, he further said.
“The licenses issued in the 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 passes through several clerical stages”, Choudhary said.
“Of the 36,000 licenses issued in Udhampur between 2012—2016, only 1500 odd (less than 4%) were issued under my tenure. I’ve complied with agency queries, committed to do so in future also”, he added.