At a time when the country's elite shooters are in the final stages of their preparation for the London Olympic Games, national shooting coach, Sunny Thomas, could be in serious trouble for "selling" large quantities of ammunition in the "open market" and "producing a fabricated forged bill" for the same.
A member of the District Rifle Club, Palakkad (Kerala), has filed a criminal complaint against Thomas in the court of the judicial magistrate for "producing a fabricated bill showing purchase of only 8,000 rounds of ammunition whereas the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) delivered 10,000 rounds (on the original bill) in 2001".
Githa Krishnan, in his complaint filed in January this year, has said that Thomas conspired with another co-accused and "sold the remaining 2000 rounds shown in the original bill (issued by the NRAI) in the open market and made wrongful gains and a wrongful loss to the club."Krishnan has backed his claim with a Right To Information (RTI) document issued by the NRAI public information officer in November last, which says that, "10,000 rounds of .22 S&B (brand) ammunition was delivered to Thomas and Devasia Kurian (co-accused) and the cost of the same was R250 per 100 rounds."
Krishnan claims that the (8000 rounds of) ammunition was shown to cost R350 per 100 rounds in the forged bill as against the information in the RTI document, which says "the cost of the ammo was R250 per 100 rounds. The above illegal acts of the accused constitute the offences punishable under Sections 120 (B), 420, 463, 466, 467, 471 and 477 (A) r/w of the IPC."
At its annual general body meeting in May, the Kerala State Rifle Association (KSRA) eased Thomas out of the post of secretary after these allegations surfaced. "Thomas and Kurian were adversely affecting the smooth functioning of the association and hence they should be kept away from their respective positions in the best interest of the association," the KSRA had decided in the AGM.
The allegations become all the more serious when one considers that Thomas has been the national coach for more than 16 years and the quantity of arms and ammunition he would have handled is mind-boggling.
Thomas, when contacted in Pune, where the national camp starts in a few days, said, "I quit the KSRA voluntarily as I have to concentrate on the Olympic team. All these allegations of forgery are baseless and these have been lingering for years. I will not comment further as the matter is sub-judice," he said.
NRAI advisor, Baljeet Singh Sethi, said, "We are not aware of any case against Thomas. Action, if any, will only be taken after the final court judgment if there is a case."