Brigadiers, Major Generals found runing arms selling rackets.Ministry admits Colonels and Lt. Colonels in Rajasthan selling weapons in bulk.
Dubbing as "very serious" the involvement of Indian army officers in illegal sale of arms, the Indian Supreme Court on Friday, took umbrage to a junior officer filing an affidavit on behalf of the Defence Ministry, which was asked to submit it afresh.
"Are the Ministry of Defence and the army commanders shirking to file an affidavit in the matter?" A bench comprising Justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar said and wondered whether the weapons had landed in the hands of "dacoits".
The bench was anguished that the affidavit on behalf of the Ministry of Defence was filed by an army officer of the rank of Captain.
"On such a serious issue how can an officer of the rank of Captain file an affidavit on behalf of the Ministry of Defence," the bench asked, adding, there was a need to maintain some "decorum" and that some higher authority should have filed the affidavit. "It is a very serious matter. Where are those weapons? Are those in the hands of dacoits," the bench said, while expressing its disappointment over the manner, in which the Government handled the entire issue.
"We are not satisfied with the affidavit filed on behalf of the Ministry of Defence. Accordingly, a proper affidavit has to be filed by the ministry," the bench said and granted four weeks to the Centre to file a fresh affidavit. The bench stated that only after going through a proper affidavit, it would pass any directions on the PIL, filed by Advocate Arvind Kumar Sharma, who has sought an inquiry either by the CBI or a former judge of the Supreme Court, into the racket, involving illegal sale of arms and issuance of licence.
At the outset, Sharma claimed that the affidavit by the Centre was a total "eyewash" as it had not named any senior officers of the rank of Brigadier and Major General, who were part of the racket.
Additional Solicitor General, Vivek Tankha, described the issue as "serious" but maintained that the PIL was for publicity, which evoked a strong protest from Sharma, who said he had raised an the issue of national security while the government preferred to file an affidavit through a junior army officer.
At this point, the bench questioned: "How an army officer can file an affidavit on behalf of the Ministry of Defence? We cannot go by this affidavit," the bench said and raised objection that in the affidavit, it was mentioned that 40 officers sold their weapons, but it was also stated that only four top-ranking officials were allegedly involved in the racket of illegal weapons’ selling.
The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that the affidavit filed by the Indian Defence Ministry had stated that four top-ranking officials of the Indian army procured weapons, supplied to their colleagues, and illegally sold them to arms dealers, gun houses and civilians.
Forty other officers sold their own weapons and 25 others were found in possession of ammunition in excess to their entitlement, it had said.
The Daily Mail’s findings further indicate that the ministry had stated that the three serving Lieutenant Colonels and a Colonel posted in Rajasthan, were part of the racket and they coordinated the procurement of non-service pattern (NSP) weapons, from army officials and sold them.
Under army rules, the sale of NSP weapons is strictly prohibited. Besides the service weapon, every officer is entitled to keep a single NSP weapon, which has to be either returned on retirement, or permission has to be taken if he chooses to retain it.
The Daily Mail’s findings also reveal that with disciplinary proceedings going on against four officers, the Ministry of Defence had said in the affidavit, that it was looking into the issue throughout the country.
The Daily Mail’s investigations further indicate that a report prepared by a Court of Inquiry ordered by Headquarters of South Western Command has detailed a list of 72 high-ranking army officials across the country, who sold their NSP weapons in violation of the Army Order and the Army Act 1959.
Based on this, the Army initiated disciplinary proceedings against all, except 10 officials, who have retired, and four serving officials who managed to retrieve their weapons. The list also includes 25 officers, who were posted at Indian Army Training Team (IMTRAT), Bhutan, and possessed imported ammunition (50 rounds) in excess of their authorisation.
The Indian Supreme Court, on July 30 had expressed its displeasure against the Centre and the Rajasthan government, over their approach towards taking action against army and civilian officers, allegedly involved in illegal sale of arms and issuance of licences to dubious persons.