Army officers who illegally sold their weapons to private persons have been let off with either a reprimand, or worse a token Rs 500 fine. Three out of the 73 officers who had together sold 33 weapons in what is being seen as an organised racket.
This mockery of justice took place despite constant monitoring by the Supreme Court of the PIL that exposed the nexus between Army officials, district authorities and arms dealers operating in Rajasthan’s border districts.
The status report of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), filed partly in sealed cover before the bench of Justices SS Nijjar and HL Gokhale on Monday, revealed that the 73 officers, mostly of the rank of Major, Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel, were found guilty of violating the Army Order that prohibits sale of non-service pattern (NSP) weapons without prior sanction from the gun licence issuing authority in the Army. All 73 were let off with censure or fine.
Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising, who represented the MoD, made light of the role of Army officers in the racket. “On basis of authorisation, licence is issued to Army personnel. It is not a case of illegal possession of weapons. What is held against them is they made onward transfer without authorisation,” Jaising said. Her indifference reflected in the MoD status report too.
Three officers accused of selling more than one weapon — Lt Col VS Rathore (17 weapons), Lt Col BS Shekhawat (11) and Colonel Neeraj Rana (5) were let off with “severe reprimand” and forfeiture of three years, two years and one year of service and related benefits respectively.
Dealing with the remaining officers accused of sale of their personal NSP weapon in open market, the court martial expressed “severe displeasure” against 11 who later retrieved their weapons. At the same time, 26 serving officers, who failed to produce their sold weapons, were reprimanded and fined Rs 500.
Only few cases led to forfeiture of service period and benefits ranging between one to three years.
While the Army attempted to put a lid on the wrongs committed by the men in uniform, the Court posted the matter after four weeks to go through the other status report submitted by the Rajasthan Government. State affidavit suggested that the probe was no longer limited to Rajasthan alone but had gradually extended to army companies of Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir from where similar instances surfaced.
Presenting the Court with the latest status on the 14 cases probed by the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB), the Rajasthan Government’s affidavit disclosed that while on the trail of 284 cases of reported irregularities in issuance of arms licenses in Rajasthan, the ACB team discovered 304 more cases. While 41 cases pertained to Punjab, 104 cases traced to Jammu and Kashmir, giving indications that the Army gun running racket could extend to other parts of the country as well.
The affidavit filed by ACB’s Additional Superintendent of Police PS Rathore said, “104 cases pertain to army companies deputed in the State of Jammu and Kashmir and in respect whereof, the letters were addressed twice by the DIG, ACB, Jaipur to District Collector Kathua, Kupwara, and Srinagar for verification and their reply is yet to be received.”
In six cases out of the 14, charge-sheet was filed, he added. However, the charge sheet was silent on action taken against IAS and Rajasthan Administrative Service (RAS) officers. Sanction for prosecution was granted in three cases while in a case pertaining to a top IAS official, sanction was denied following which only departmental action would proceed against him.
-via The Pioneer