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State to probe why gold-medallist shooter's gun licences were cancelled

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Home department is probing order issued by lower-level officials to annul 14 gun licences held by gold-medallist Ashok Pandit, which was issued despite no proof being found against him in previous inquiries

The state home department’s order to cancel gun licences of Arjuna awardee shooter Ashok Pandit has come under the scanner for being ambiguous and deviating from standard government protocol.

A senior home department official said the order to cancel Pandit’s gun licences was “clearly drafted with the intention of pushing the complainant’s case and creating confusion in its interpretations.” File pic
A senior home department official said the order to cancel Pandit’s gun licences was “clearly drafted with the intention of pushing the complainant’s case and creating confusion in its interpretations.” File pic

Senior officials said that the department would conduct a probe to find out how an “amb-iguous” order was abruptly issued by lower-level staff on allegations of weapons sale made by a former senior Pune Police officer, despite previous inquiries not finding any proof against Pandit, who is the general secretary of the Maharashtra Rifle Association (MRA).

mid-day’s June 5 report on the order
mid-day’s June 5 report on the order

The 61-year-old, who had won a gold in the centre-fire pistol event in the 1990 Commonwealth Games, was accused of selling assault weapons and ammunition in the market without any verification or details being disclosed of the buyer.

In the order issued on May 28, the home department directed the additional collector of Jawahar in Thane district, to seize 14 licences held by Pandit allowing him only one firearm (555/SP/DAHANU).

However, the order issued by S M Dhule, the home department’s desk officer, did not take into account outcomes of earlier inquiries, and deviated from the standard protocol followed when corresponding with, or forwarding, individual complaints to concerned district authorities.

mid-day spoke to several desk officers in the home department and most confirmed that the order issued by Dhule did not follow the standard format applied by officers. No ‘call reports’ from the concerned police offices were demanded, as is the procedure in such cases upon receiving a complaint.

“Not only was the order passed without demanding a call report from police officials, but it was clearly drafted with the intention of pushing the complainant’s case and creating confusion in its interpretations,” said a senior home department official.

Replies to an RTI application filed by this paper revealed that Pandit was cleared in the inquiry conducted in 2012 by the state home department. The Vasai MLA had filed a complaint against Pandit for possessing illegal arms and allegedly selling them in the black market. But, the then desk officer M B Tehsildar had asked for a call report from the concerned police officials.

The then Special IG Deven Bharti in his report (VSA / 2013 / CR207 / Poll-11) filed on December 30, 2013, had said that weapons procured by Pandit based on licences given by the Collector of Jawahar were being used for protection and carrying out sporting activity. “Of the 15 licences, Pandit has taken weapons on 13, and are all under the provisions of law. We are also not aware of any illegal sale,” it states.

The order
This correspondent had, on June 5, reported on the department’s decision to cancel Pandit’s licences based on complaints of illegal weapons sale from former Pune senior police official Gani Shaikh, who is associated with the Pune Rifle Association (PRA).

Pandit had said the complaint was a conspiracy by Shaikh and the MLA to grab land in Worli worth R300 crore held by the MRA. He added that Shaikh hekd a personal grudge against him as he had refused the PRA’s request for affiliation with the MRA.

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