By Archana Sharma
Jaipur, Sep 14 (IANS) After five decades, 64.6 kg of gold which was given to the District Collector in Rajasthan’s Chittorgarh for weighing then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri in the wake of the 1965 India-Pakistan war, has finally been handed over to the CGST by the Udaipur district administration after a court order. The value of this gold is around Rs 32 crore.
The controversy over the ownership of the gold dates back to late 1965 when the precious metal was given to the Chittorgarh District Collector for weighing Shastri. The case, since then, has been heard five times in different courts and each time the decision went in the government’s favour.
In fact, the controversy did not end even this time as the records showed an entry of 56.8 kg of gold stored with the district administration. However, during its weighing, it turned out to be 67.8 kg. Senior Central Goods and Service Tax (CGST) officials were present during the entire process.
Finding more gold than registered in the records raised many questions.
In this situation, advocate Praveen Khandelwal referred to the court order given in 1975 to the officials which clearly said that the entire gold given for weighing Shastri should be handed over to the Gold Control Officer. As the post of Gold Control Officer does not exist, and as the CGST team is working in its place, the delivery of gold has been made to the officers of CGST, he said.
Meanwhile, a gold biscuit weighing 3.2 kg had a different number in the documents and hence the District Collector has not handed it over to the CGST team. While the biscuit carried the number G-2560, the documents carried M-2560. As per Khandelwal, an application will be made in the court for 3.2 kg of gold.
On December 9, 1965, a person named Gunwant filed a case against another person Ganpat and two others, alleging that the accused did not return 56.86 kg gold to him.
On December 16, 1965, Ganpat handed over the gold to the Chittorgarh Collector for weighing Shastri, who was to visit Udaipur. However, Shastri passed away in Tashkent in January 1966 following talks with Pakistan organised by the then Soviet Union. Thereafter, police seized the gold but its custody was given to the Chittorgarh Collector.
In 1969, a challan was presented in the Assistant District Session Court in Udaipur and the gold was then brought to Udaipur.
On January 11, 1975, the court sentenced Ganpat and Hiralal to two years imprisonment and the rights over the gold were given to the Gold Controller.
Ganpat and Hiralal challenged the judgment in the sessions court and were freed, but they did not regain the right to possession of the gold.
A petition was again filed by Gunwant against the High Court verdict which, on September 14, 2007, upheld the order of acquittal, but rejected the appeal for transferring them rights over the gold.
In 2012, Ganpat’s heir Govardhan filed a writ in court, saying that the gold belonged to his father and police had recovered it from him. However, this writ is still pending.
On July 17, 2020, the Assistant Commissioner, CGST, Chittorgarh, submitted an application in the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court for delivery of the gold, and on August 5, 2020, the court said that the High Court has issued directions for the delivery of gold to the CGST official.
Govardhan then appealed to the session court, which also decided in favour of the gold being transferred to the official.
The District and Sessions Court in Chittorgarh in February this year directed the officials concerned to hand over the gold to the Assistant Commissioner of Central Goods and Service Tax which was lying in a warehouse of the Udaipur District Collectorate’s office since then.
Finally, on Monday night, the CGST team collected the gold and left for Delhi with the yellow metal.
By Archana Sharma