As per a recent report released by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), 25 rifles and 12,061 live cartridges are missing from Special Armed Police Battalion (SAPB) of the Kerala Police. This was unveiled after the CAG came out with its report on the audit of modernisation of weapons. The audit also observed that the Stock Register and related records of arms and ammunition in the SAPB were not properly maintained.
Reportedly, the CAG also observed that the police allegedly tried to cover-up the incident instead of taking action against those responsible. As per the Investigation Board constituted in September 2015, there was an attempt to cover up an earlier shortage of 7.62 mm M80 bullets for Self-Loading Rifles, stated the CAG report. The former Home Minister and Leader of Opposition, Ramesh Chennithala has demanded a probe by an agency like CBI or NIA in the case.
"The entries in the Stock Registers had many over writings, use of white correction fluid and striking off of entries etc. The entries and corrections were not properly authenticated. The audit could not find any evidence of conduct of periodical physical verification by higher officers from the records available at SAPB," the CAG report stated.
"Audit, therefore, conducted (16 October 2018) a test-check including joint physical verification in the SAPB, to assess whether the physical stock of arms and ammunitions agreed with the stock registers and whether the system of accounting of arms and ammunitions was robust and reliable. The joint verification conducted by Audit in the Bell-of-Arms of SAPB along with the Assistant Commandant revealed shortage of 25 Nos. of 5.56 mm INSAS rifles and 12,061 live cartridges," it said.
"Audit observed from the following instances that the Police Department was aware of the shortage in ammunition and attempted to cover up the shortfall instead of identifying and taking action against the culprits responsible or the loss of ammunition," read the report.
"Audit noticed that the shortage of 250 Nos. 9 mm Drill Cartridges was sought to be covered up by replacing the same with 250 Nos. of dummy cartridges. There was no document on record to show how these dummy cartridges came into the possession of the SAPB and how these were taken into stock. The Commandant, SAPB offered no explanation to Audit on how the 250 unauthorised dummy cartridges came into their possession," it said.
"The Government of Kerala admitted (April 2019) negligence in the proper maintenance of records and stated that it has been decided to conduct a full-scale audit of the arms and ammunition across the State in all units, to be completed in the next four to six months. Audit observes that the issue of loss of arms and ammunition is a serious issue, with implications on State security and needs to be urgently addressed," the report said.
"This is a serious finding from CAG that has implication on national security. Where has this missing rifles and live cartridges gone? Congress demands a probe by a high-level agency like NIA or CBI," he said.