State cancels gun licences of gold-medallist shooter

The home department cancelled 14 permits held by Arjuna awardee shooter Ashok Pandit, following allegations that he had been illegally selling firearms in the black market that landed up with criminals

Arjuna awardee shooter Ashok Pandit finds himself without 14 of his 15 gun licences, after the state home department cancelled them. The action comes following allegations that several shooters, including Pandit, have been selling firearms illegally in black market, which ultimately landed up in the hands of criminals.

Shooter Ashok Pandit says it is a conspiracy by Shaikh and Vasai MLA Vivek Pandit, who he says have been eyeing MRA land worth Rs 300 crore in Worli. File pics
Shooter Ashok Pandit says it is a conspiracy by Shaikh and Vasai MLA Vivek Pandit, who he says have been eyeing MRA land worth Rs 300 crore in Worli. File pics

Several complaints have been made to the home department in this regard. According to order dated May 28, the additional district magistrate, Jawahar, has been directed to cancel and seize all licences held by Pandit barring the single arm 555/SP/DAHANU issued to the shooter in 1974.

Since then, 14 others were also issued in succession. The order allows Pandit to keep a single arm (552/SP/DAHANU), and directs cancellation and seizure of the remaining 14 licences held by the Commonwealth gold medalist.

“We direct the additional district magistrate to seize and cancel arms of Mr Pandit if he is found in possession of more than one licence. Only licence no 552/SP/DAHANU be retained,” reads the order.

Brought home gold
The 61-year-old, who won the gold in the centre-fire pistol event in the 1990 Commonwealth Games, was facing allegations that he was selling assault weapons and ammunitions in market without any verification or details disclosed of the buyer.

The state sports department had ordered an enquiry against Pandit following allegations made by Vasai MLA Vivek Pandit in 2012. The shooter has since then been holding charge as the general secretary of the Maharashtra Rifle Association (MRA).

So far, repeated enquiries against Pandit have not yielded any concrete results in the allegations probed by various senior policemen or the home department. Department officials continue to maintain ambiguity on what investigations were carried out before issuing the orders to Pandit.

“The order was issued on the complaint of former commissioner of Pune, Gani Shaikh. We cannot reveal more on it,” said S M Dhule, a home department official who had signed the government order. Sheikh is associated with the Pune District Rifle Association (PRA).

MLA Vivek Pandit (not related to the shooter) welcomed the order and said the shooter has been so far protected by ‘powerful’ government people, but his role needs to be probed.

“He was not only selling these ammunitions in the black market, but also held several other weapons illegally. I had asked for a probe, but the government just sat on it,” Pandit told this paper.

The other side
When contacted, Pandit questioned the ‘mischievous’ attempt of the home department in issuing an order without calling him for appeal or handing him a prior notice.

“This is a conspiracy in which the home officials have drafted this notice in such a way to give impression that my weapons will be seized.

This is based on a complaint which is baseless and factious, motivated by an MLA and a cop who are eyeing the Rs 300-crore land owned by my association,” he said.

He further added, “Shaikh has a personal grudge against me because I have refused his request for affiliation of the PRA with the MRA repeatedly.”

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