CBI may have found procedural errors in 15-20 arms licences: ex-Udhampur DC Shahid Choudhary’s kin

The CBI may have found “procedural errors” in 15-20 arms licences among the 1,700 issued in Udhampur during the one-year tenure of Shahid Iqbal Choudhary as deputy commissioner, his brother Zafar Iqbal Choudhary said. Shahid Choudhary‘s premises was searched by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Saturday in connection with the illegal arms licences case probe. Zafar Choudhary’s residence was also searched by the agency.

Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir being the headquarters of the Northern Command of the army receives a lot of applications from retiring soldiers, Zafar Choudhary said.

During the period of 2012-16, which is under CBI probe, 36,000 such arms licences were issued from Udhampur district of which about 1,700 or around four per cent were issued during the tenure of IAS officer Shahid Choudhary, who was posted as deputy commissioner from May 2015 to May 2016, he said.

Zafar Choudhary said that among these, procedural errors were found in 15-20 such licences issued during Shahid Choudhary’s tenure.

He was posted as district magistrate (DM) in three districts — Reasi, Kathua and Udhampur — of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, now a Union Territory, during the 2012-16 period.

Of the 56,000 licences issued in these three districts during the period, only 1,720 licences, about three per cent of the total, were issued during his tenure, which is the lowest by any DM in any district, Zafar Choudhary claimed.

The 1,720 licences are 0.38 per cent of 4.49 lakh licences issued in Jammu and Kashmir during 2012-16 and among those 15-20 are under the scanner for procedural errors, he said.

“Oversight or procedural indiscretion in a 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,” Zafar Choudhary said.

He said the IAS officer has a spotless career of 16 years in the civil services with no irregularity reported under his watch and no allegation against him.

“There is absolutely no question of corruption in the process of issuing arms licences under his watch. As evident from the number of licences issued under his tenure, only three per cent of all licences, any pecuniary consideration is not even thinkable,” Zafar Choudhary said.

The CBI had questioned Shahid Choudhary twice between September and November 2019 at its Chandigarh office as a witness under Section 61 of the CrPC, he said.

The CBI on Saturday carried out searches at 40 locations in Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi, including the premises of Shahid Choudhary and another IAS officer Niraj Kumar, in connection with its probe into the illegal arms licences case.

It is alleged that then public servants in cahoots with other accused issued arms licences to non-residents of the erstwhile state in violation of rules and received illegal gratification.

The Rajasthan ATS had unearthed the scandal in 2017 and had arrested over 50 people for their alleged involvement in the illegal issuance of arms licences.

According to the ATS, over 3,000 permits were granted allegedly in the name of Army personnel. Based on ATS findings, then Jammu and Kashmir Governor N N Vohra had handed over the matter to the CBI.

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