TRIVANDRUM: A Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on the audit of the modernisation of weapons in Kerala Police has raised serious questions over the management of sensitive weapons by the police.
The CAG found that 25 rifles and 12,061 live cartridges have vanished from the Special Armed Police Battalion (SAPB) in Thiruvananthapuram during 2013-18. The question being asked in the state is whether the guns have slipped into the hands of extremists or someone high in the ranks pocketed the funds meant for the purchase of the weapons.
The CAG itself has rejected the police explanation that the guns were shifted to A R Camp. Kerala Accountant General S Sunil Raj said, police reply to this issue is not at all satisfactory. The AR Camp authorities have informed the AG that they have not received any rifles, he added.
Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan, who hails from Kerala, has taken a serious view of the incident and has demanded a high probe by the National Investigation Bureau (NIA). He accused the Kerala police of helping extremists to lay their hands on the guns and live cartridges. The Chief Minister is trying to wriggle out of the situation by giving vague answers, he added.
Leader of Opposition in the state assembly, Ramesh Chennithala has demanded the resignation of DGP Lokanath Behera and accused Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan of shielding the top police officer. He has also demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the matter.
In his report, the AG said that the audit scrutiny of records at AR Camprevealed that there was no entry regarding the receipt of 25 rifles and later police informed that Police Crime Branch wing was ordered to investigate the case of missing arms.
The audit report also pointed several violations including purchase of bullet resistant vehicles at a cost of Rs 1.10 crore for VIP security without inviting tenders. Over Rs 2.80 crore earmarked for construction of subordinate staff quarters was diverted for the construction of villas for state police chief and three additional DGPs.
The report pointed out that the police violated scheme guidelines while procuring vehicles for police stations and misutilised funds for purchasing luxury police cars.
Reacting to the report, the Chief Minister said there are Assembly norms to study CAG findings and that the matter would be investigated.
Police Chief Lokanath Behera refused to comment saying that since the CAG report is with the legislature, it would be a breach of privilege to comment on it (with inputs from Free Press Journal)
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