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SC notice on disappearance of cash, gold from Assam tea estate


New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the central and Assam governments on a PIL by a former operative of military intelligence seeking a CBI probe into the disappearance of Rs.300 crore, 300 kg gold and two AK-47 rifles kept beneath a temple in a tea garden in Assam.

A bench of Chief Justice T.S.Thakur, Justice R. Banumathi and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit issued notice as it was told that money that had disappeared was allegedly collected from the tea estate owners to pay as protection money to outlawed organisations United Liberation Front of Assam or the National Democratic Front of Bodoland.

Notice was also issued to the Assam police chief.

The court in the last hearing, on April 13, of the plea by havaldar Manoj Kumar Kaushal (retired) had asked Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh to assist it after taking instructions from the government in the matter.

“The matter must be pursued with the home ministry as he (Kaushal) was part of military intelligence… and please give a report by May 6,” the bench had told the ASG.

Kaushal, in his PIL, has said that on May 10, 2014 he got information from his erstwhile informer Jiten Kalita (with whom he has worked in past when he was serving the army in Guwahati) that there was an unaccounted money to the tune of Rs.300 crore cash, 300 kg Gold and 2 AK47 rifles kept in a Kali temple in a cellar below the goddess’ main statue.

The said temple is situated in Rani Tea Garden, near Dispur Airport.

Kaushal said the owner of Rani Tea Garden was Mridul Bhattacharya who was also president of Tea Garden Association of Assam (TGAA) and used to collect money from owners of tea gardens to pay ULFA as protection money.

Telling the court that Bhattacharya was also involved in smuggling of gold from Myanmar, Kaushal has told the court that Bhattacharya and his wife were murdered under suspicious circumstances in 2012.

He said that because of his efforts, the army agreed to take out the treasure and informed Jiten Kalita that they would take out the treasure on June 1, 2014, but Hitesh Kalita and 12 others who allegedly had the knowledge of proposed army action, “hatched a conspiracy and took the treasure out from the cellar on May 31, 2014 in the night by digging a cave from outside the temple”.

Hitesh Kalita dug the cave from outside the temple to take away the treasure is clearly depicted in the photographs, the petition said.

The court gave six weeks to the centre and Assam governments and the state police chief to give their response to the plea by former military intelligence official.


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