'Assault rifles not missing': Kerala Police denounce CAG report

'Assault rifles not missing': Kerala Police denounce CAG report
The CAG had come down heavily on state police chief DGP Loknath Behera for purchasing bullet proof vehicles for VVIP security, violating guidelines. File photo

Thiruvananthapuram: A day after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India flagged that 25 assault rifles and 12,061 live cartridges were missing from the Special Armed Police (SAP) battalion in Thiruvananthapuram, the Kerala Police on Thursday said all rifles were in its safe custody.

"Twenty five assault rifles were reportedly missing as per the CAG report. The crime branch investigation revealed that no rifle was missing. The crime branch will once again verify all the weapons issued to the SAP," said a statement from the state police media centre.

According to the crime branch, 25 rifles were handed over to Armed Reserve Police Camp in Nandavanam, Thiruvananthapuram, in 2011.

The crime branch has retrieved documents regarding the transfer of rifles.

They have also found out that, in total, 660 assualt rifles has been transferred from police chief store to SAP camp.

Out of this, 616 were handed over to various battalions. The remaining 44 rifles are still kept with SAP camp. According to stock records, no rifles are missing.

However, the probe team has found irregularities in handling the records.

Missing bullets

The crime branch also acknowledges the concern over missing of bullets. They found that the bullets had gone missing since 1994.

The CAG report stated that 12,061 live cartridges were found missing in a joint verification in the Bell-of-Arms of SAPB, along with the Assistant Commandant.

The CAG had come down heavily on state police chief DGP Loknath Behera for purchasing bullet proof vehicles for VVIP security, violating guidelines.

There was shortage of 250 9 mm Drill Cartridges,which was "covered up" with dummy cartridges, the report on General and Social sector for the fiscal ending March 31,2018 had said.

CAG report: What's next

• Home department to submit a report on actions taken on CAG report to Public Accounts Committee. A copy of the same will be submitted to Accountant General (AG).

• AG will prepare a questionnaire based on the report and submit it to Public Accounts Committee.

• Based on the questionnaire, Public Accounts Committee can collect evidence from parties involved in the case, including Home Secretary and state police chief. Their report will be handed over to AG and after review, it will be presented to state assembly.

• The state government can take necessary actions based on the reports and should inform the Public Accounts Committee.

• The Committee will review the government's response and if not satisfied, can ask the government to take further actions.

Opposition slams state govt

Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said the allegations against the DGP and state police had put Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on the defensive as he heads the home department.

"Does it mean the CM was unaware of the matters?, It needs to be found out whether these missing rifles and ammunition had been handed over to the extremist outfits", he wrote on his Facebook page.

Attacking the government over the CAG report, Kerala PCC president Mullapally Ramachandran demanded the resignation of Pinarayi Vijayan and DGP Loknath Behera.

"Both the Chief Minister and State police chief should resign and face action," Ramachandran said.

He alleged that a CBI probe will not bring out the truth as Behera was close to the Narendra Modi government.

Opposition leader in the assembly Ramesh Chennithala wrote to the Chief Minister, demanding removal of Behera from the post in the wake of serious allegations levelled against him and the police department in the CAG report.

In his letter, the senior congress leader said a CBI probe against Behara and the NIA investigation into the missing rifles and cartridges needs to be conducted.

"The letter was sent yesterday itself. I am surprised that the Chief Minister has said he has not received it," Chennithala's office quoted him as saying.

Meanwhile, Behara on Thursday met Chief Minister at the Secretariat.

The DGP is expected to leave for the UK in the first week of March to attend a conference.

(With PTI inputs)