Antony admits to illegal arms sales by officers

Mid-level officers in the Army are said to be running the arms-selling racket in which non-service pattern weapons (NSP) are being siphoned off to commercial gun markets in Rajasthan and Haryana. Some of the officers involved in the racket were posted in Indian Army Training team (IMTRAT) in Bhutan and Rajasthan.

Along with the service weapons, army officers are granted a single NSP weapon that should be returned to the Central Ordnance Deport in Jabalpur within three months of retirement and would need approvals from the head quarters to keep them beyond their service period.

But under the Army rules, sale of NSP weapons–rifles, pistols, revolvers–in the market is strictly prohibited. The NSP weapons come mainly from the stock of seized guns.  On Monday, Defence Minister A K Antony admitted in the Lok Sabha that disciplinary proceedings were initiated against 30 officers and one junior commissioned officer for their failure to deposit their NSP weapons.

Disciplinary action

In addition, four officers would face disciplinary proceedings for selling weapons and for buying more than one NSP weapon. Five are also subjected to administrative action for returning their weapons only after being directed by the head quarters.

The defence ministry has asked the civil administration to take action against the 10 retired officers. While a check on the NSP weapon was made in the case of retiring officers, the link to serving officers was unearthed when the new owner of the guns applied for licence that prompted state home departments to trace the weapons origin, according to an army officer who spoke to Deccan Herald.

The Army began investigations following complaints from the Rajasthan government.
A Court of Inquiry report prepared by the South Western Command has detailed a list of 72 officials in the army across who sold their NSP weapons in violation of Army Order (SAO 1/S/96) and Army Act, 1959.

Besides the weapon sale, more than 25 officers were found to possess more than their quota of authorised ammunition, Antony said. Some of the excess ammunition may also find its way to the market.

The Supreme Court was alerted on this racket in 2007 when a public interest litigation was filed.  Antony said the army headquarters was revising its standard operating procedure following the scam to plug the hole in the system.

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