The army has initiated action against its 65 officers, including three Lt. Colonels, indicted for selling their arms and ammunitions in the grey market with the help of a cartel of arms dealers in the border districts of Rajasthan.
This follows a court of inquiry, which found as many as 75 officers ‘blameworthy’ in the gunrunning scandal. Ten of them have retired, the Ministry of Defence said in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court.
The court is hearing a PIL filed in 2007 by Arvind Kumar Sharma seeking a CBI probe into the matter. Sharma said no action had been taken against senior army and IAS officers allegedly involved in the scandal.
Hindustan Times had reported on September 5, 2007, that army officers — serving as well as retired — had been selling their Non-Service Pattern (NSP) weapons (bought at a subsidised price for personal use) in the grey market in violation of laws. It was suspected that the weapons might have fallen into the hands of criminals in Rajasthan and Punjab.
According to the affidavit, four officers - Lt Col. VS Rathore (a Sena Medal recipient), Lt Col. SS Rathore, Lt. Col.
BS Shekhawat and Col. Neeraj Rana “were actively involved in sale/purchase/disposal of NSP weapons and other fire arms to arms dealers in utter violation of the Arms Act, 1959.”
Forty-five officers and one junior commissioned officer sold their NSP weapons without taking sanction of competent authority in violation of Special Army Order and the Arms Act, 1959, it said.
Twenty-five officers posted at the Indian Military Training Team, Bhutan, were found to have imported ammunition in excess of their authorization and also sold their weapons on return to India.
While eight of the officers have since retrieved their weapons and deposited them with the authorities.
Defence Ministry said violations by the army personnel were not adequately dealt with and accordingly, the defence secretary had on February 22, 2011, asked the Army Headquarters to review the entire matter in a time-bound manner.
September 5, 2007: An HT report exposes how Army officers were selling their arms in grey market in collusion with arms dealers and state officials
September 7, 2007: Acting on a PIL, SC notices to Defence Ministry and Rajasthan govt
September 8, 2007: Army orders probe
February 2008: Army’s court of inquiry indicts 75 officers
February 2011: Defence secretary asks the Army to review the matter citing inadequate action
July 2011: Defence Ministry says the standard operating procedure for issuance of NSP weapons being revised