The Indian Army has let off 73 officers -- who were illegally selling weapons in Rajasthan -- with a mere reprimand or a token fine of Rs 500, despite the state government informing the Supreme Court on Monday that the gun racket extends to other parts of the country as well.
In an affidavit on the 14 cases probed by its Anti-Corruption Bureau, the Rajasthan government has disclosed that it discovered 304 more cases of sale of weapons -- 104 in Jammu and Kashmir and 41 in Punjab. The ACB has written twice to the district collectors for verification, but no reply has yet been received, the affidavit said.
This affidavit, which pointed out that the probe has to be extended to the army companies in other states, prompted the court to post the matter after four weeks.
Though the affidavit claimed that charge-sheets have already been filed in six of the 14 cases the ACB probed, it was silent on the action taken against the IAS and Rajasthan Administrative Services officers.
No civilian can possess a firearm without first procuring a licence and can sell it to only those having such a licence.
But the guilty army personnel did not even bother about the Army Order that prohibits them from selling non-service pattern weapons without prior approval from the army's gun licence issuing authority.
As many as 73 army officers of the ranks of colonel, lieutenant colonel and major who were found guilty of violating the Army Order -- were let off with censure or fine. The defence ministry is trying to claim that the army issues licences to its personnel and hence they are not guilty of illegal possession of weapons.
Their only crime is that they transferred the weapons without authorisation, according to the defence ministry. Three officers accused of selling more than one weapon -- Lieutenant Colonel V S Rathore who sold 17 weapons, Lieutenant Colonel B S Shekhawat (11) and Colonel Neeraj Rana (5) -- were let off with a "severe reprimand" and forfeiture of service and related benefits for three, two and one year respectively.
Of the three officers found guilty of selling their personal NSP weapons in an open market, 26 were reprimanded and fined Rs 500 each, while 11 others were let off after an expression of "severe displeasure" by the court martial.