A Morinda-based man committed suicide after shooting dead a woman officer of Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) Punjab in her office at Kharar in full public view on Friday morning. The victim, Dr Neha Shoree, 36, was a resident of Sector 6, Panchkula, while the assailant, Balwinder Singh, 50, used to reside at College Road, Ward No. 4 in Morinda. Neha’s six-year-old niece too was present in her office, when she was shot dead. Her niece had accompanied her to the office because of her ongoing school vacation.
Police said their preliminary investigations revealed that Balwinder used to run a chemist shop at Morinda and Neha had cancelled his chemist shop licence in 2009. Neha was also scheduled to depose in a court case going on against Balwinder in the same matter and Balwinder was pressuring her not to do so.
Dr Neha had been posted as Zonal Licensing Authority in FDA since 2016. The ZLA issues licences for chemist shops.
According to the police, Balwinder reached FDA’s office on a motorbike about 10.30 am. He entered Dr Neha’s office, fired two gunshots and shouted “Happy Holi”.
“Dr Neha received one bullet in the temple and another in the chest. Balwinder escaped, but was chased by FDA’s employees. He tried to speed away on his motorbike, but the people chasing him blocked the exit gate. Finding himself cornered by an agitated mob, Balwinder took out the revolver and tried to scare them. As he failed to find an exit, he pulled the trigger, first shot himself in his chest and then in the head,” Mohali’s SSP said.
Also read | Neighbours remember Neha warmly
The onlookers took both Dr Neha and Balwinder to a private hospital in Phase-VI, Mohali. While Neha was declared dead on arrival, Balwinder was rushed to PGIMER, Chandigarh, in a critical state. He died on the way.
Postmortem examination of Dr Neha’s body will be conducted at Civil Hospital, Kharar, on Saturday. Balwinder’s body was kept at PGIMER.
Police later recovered the .32 bore revolver used in the crime. A knife wrapped in a newspaper too was recovered from Balwinder’s possession.
Morinda (city) Station House Officer (SHO) Birbal Singh said Balwinder Singh did not have any criminal record. Asked that since the model code of conduct is in place, how Balwinder was carrying his weapon, the SHO said that they had asked all the weapon holders to deposit the weapons and Balwinder might not have deposited as he got a new weapon recently.
The District Chemist Association decided to close shops from 8 am to 10 am on Saturday.
The building where the incident took place is a newly built complex. Chemical examination laboratory that examines samples of drugs and adulterated food confiscated by various agencies is also located in the same building. Dr Neha used to sit on the first floor. There are CCTV cameras installed outside her cabin.
Balwinder’s entry into the building, which is a secure zone, is also a security lapse since the chemical examination of seized drugs and adulterated food samples is done in the same building. Commissioner, FDA, Kahan Singh Pannu admitted it. “We shall depute permanent security at the main gate of the building, so that no unauthorised person can enter from now on. Since we have recently shifted into this building, a security agency was yet to be hired,” Pannu told Newsline, calling Friday’s incident “very unfortunate”. “Dr Neha was an honest and competent officer. She was handling work of issuing licences to chemist shops.”
Explaining the motive behind the cold-blooded murder, SSP Bhullar said, “In September 2009, Dr Neha was posted as a Drug Inspector in Ropar district. She raided Balwinder’s chemist shop, Jaspreet Medical Store, at Morinda. During the raid, 35 types of tablets used by drug addicts were recovered and Balwinder could not produce any valid documents for keeping such drugs. Thus, Dr Neha cancelled Balwinder’s chemist licence. Balwinder got an arms licence on March 9. The Ropar district administration issued him the licence. He purchased a .32 bore revolver on March 11. FDA employees told Newsline that they had spotted Balwinder roaming around in their office and outside several times in the last one month. “He used to roam around here, sometimes sit at a tea vend outside, sometimes in the parking area nearby,” one of the employees said.
Balwinder was an introvert: Cousin
A S Dhiman, Balwinder’s cousin, told Newsline he was an introvert. “Balwinder is survived by his wife, two daughters and a son. His eldest daughter is pursuing a medical degree in Ukraine. His son runs a sports cafe at Morinda and youngest daughter is studying in Class 12. Balwinder’s wife runs a beauty parlour at Morinda. Whenever we met Balwinder, he preferred staying silent. It always appeared he was lost in his thoughts. The family knew he was going through a bad financial phase. But he never shared his financial constraints with us. I am not aware if was under debt,” Dhiman said. “After his chemist shop was sealed, Balwinder started another medical shop in the name of JP hospital, but the FDA again raided this shop and that was also shut down two years ago,” Dhiman told Newsline.
Capt orders probe
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday ordered the police administration to investigate the killing of Dr Neha Shoree. Expressing his grief and concern at the incident, the CM said the police must get to the root of the matter, and bring the guilty to book. The guilty must be given exemplary punishment, said the CM. He added that no one had any right to interfere with the working of a public servant, let alone threaten him/her.