The Rajasthan government has admitted before the Supreme Court that hundreds of illegal arms licences were issued to criminal elements, including those from Punjab, in the border district of Sriganganagar in connivance with state officials.
In an affidavit, the state government said irregularities had been found in 325 cases, out of which 227 licences had been cancelled and 98 cases were under consideration.
HT had first reported on September 5, 2007 that army officers had been selling personal weapons illegally in the grey market with the help of a cartel of ammunition dealers in border districts of Rajasthan.
The affidavit is in response to a public interest petition filed in 2007 by advocate Arvind Kumar Sharma seeking a CBI probe into the gun-running scandal, allegedly involving army and state officials. It said the Sriganganagar police had registered seven cases in this regard, wherein two additional district magistrates and employees of the district collector’s office were made accused and the matter was probed by the CID (CB). But chargesheets weren’t filed in three of the cases as the accused remained absconding.
In at least 41 cases, arms licences were illegally issued to persons with criminal backgrounds from Punjab after Ferozepur authorities refused to issue/renew their licences, the affidavit said. However, it sought dismissal of the petition. “The state government is ensuring procedure in issuing arms licences is followed and in cases of purchase of arms, no licence is issued to any criminal or anti-national element,” it said. The Union Ministries of Defence and Home are yet to file their response to the PIL.
A bench headed by CJI K.G. Balakrishnan — which had issued notices to the ministries, the Rajasthan government, the state director general of police, collector and superintendent of police, Ganganagar — has given the Centre four more weeks to respond.
Sharma alleged ‘prohibited/non-service pattern bore weapons obtained from army personnel through the Central Ordnance Depot, Jabalpur, were being sold to the general public and persons with criminal background. A Rajasthan government probe in 2007 found at least 48 army weapons — including foreign-made pistols, carbines and semi-automatic rifles — had been sold through dealers in border districts of Bikaner and Sriganganagar since 2003.
According to an earlier state police report, guns were also sold to buyers in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Uttarakhand.