The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has sought prosecution sanction against Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary and two other Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officers in its probe related to alleged irregularities in the issuance and renewal of hundreds of thousands of arms licences to non-residents in Jammu & Kashmir, officials familiar with the development told.
Choudhary, a 2009 batch officer who was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration in 2015, is currently posted as a secretary in the tribal affairs department as well as chief executive officer (CEO) of Mission Youth in the Union territory.
The central agency’s request for sanction is mandatory to file a charge sheet.
The CBI is probing irregularities in the issuance of more than 278,000 arms licences between 2012 and 2016 (out of 449,000 issued in this period in the erstwhile state) in several districts of J&K to non-entitled people by district magistrates (DMs), deputy commissioners and licencing authorities in lieu of monetary considerations by abusing their official positions.
Choudhary’s role as district magistrate in three districts, Reasi, Kathua and Udhampur, during this period was probed by the agency.
The central agency raided his home in July, along with that of several other IAS officers, Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) officers, former district magistrates, additional district magistrates, and gun houses or dealers.
Apart from Choudhary, two other IAS officers against whom sanction has been sought are Niraj Kumar, who currently holds the charge of the additional resident commissioner of J&K in Delhi, and Rajeev Ranjan, posted in the revenue department in J&K. CBI arrested Ranjan in March 2020, after which he was suspended, but the government reinstated him this February.
“Sanction for five others from the state services was also sought in the case, which has already been granted to the CBI while sanction request for three IAS officers has been forwarded to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT),” said an official, requesting anonymity.
This officer said a charge sheet will be filed against the three IAS officers as soon as the sanction is granted.
“I am not aware of any latest developments in this case. I am absolutely sure of having done no wrong at any stage. Even as DMs are empowered to issue arms licences, I am among those who brought the annual figure to lowest in the erstwhile state. This is suggestive of the fact that we employed strict process of scrutiny. I cannot comment further without knowledge of charges if any,” Choudhary said.
Niraj Kumar, a 2010 batch IAS officer, said: “The CBI had come to my place in July but they didn’t find anything.” His batchmate Rajeev Ranjan declined to comment.
Following the raids at his premises in July, Choudhary issued a statement on Twitter saying that in Reasi, Kathua and Udhampur districts, where he was posted, only 56,000 (12.4% of the total 449,000) arms licences were issued during 2012-16. “This is not disproportionate… of the 56,000 licences issued in three districts — Reasi, Kathua and Udhampur — between 2012-16, only 1,720 were issued in my tenure — 3% of all licences issued in three districts in four years or during the period under investigation and 0.38% of all such licences issued in J&K,” he said in the statement.