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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Punjab Congress crisis: Sidhu, Channi meet, break deadlock on key postings

Sidhu had been seeking the removal of Advocate General A P S Deol on the grounds that he was a defence lawyer of former DGP Sumedh Saini, against whom Punjab Vigilance had filed a case. Saini had obtained bail.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh |
Updated: October 1, 2021 7:28:06 am
Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi with Navjot Singh Sidhu (File)

Two days after Navjot Singh Sidhu resigned as Punjab Congress chief, throwing the ruling party in the state into fresh turmoil, a key issue that led to the crisis appeared to have been resolved Thursday with Sidhu and Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi reaching an agreement on “contentious” appointments.

Sources told The Indian Express that both sides agreed during a three-hour meeting to leave the decision on the appointment of an Advocate General to the Congress high command. A few hours later, Channi’s government sent a panel of names for the post of DGP to the UPSC — the appointment of DGP IP Singh Sahota had been opposed by Sidhu.

Both sides also agreed on a three-member panel, comprising CM Channi, the PPCC chief and AICC general secretary in-charge Harish Rawat, to take collective decisions so that there is no conflict later. “The resignation by Navjot Sidhu will now be rejected,” said sources.

Sidhu had been seeking the removal of Advocate General A P S Deol on the grounds that he was a defence lawyer of former DGP Sumedh Saini, against whom Punjab Vigilance had filed a case. Saini had obtained bail.

On the other appointment — DGP Sahota — Sidhu had tweeted before meeting Channi: “DGP IPS Sahota was head of SIT investigating Beadbi case under Badal Govt, he wrongfully indicted two Sikh youth for sacrilege & gave clean chit to Badals. In 2018, I along with INC Ministers, then PCC Pres & present Home Minister assured them of our support in fight for Justice.”

According to sources, Sidhu wanted the panel of names to be sent to UPSC on Thursday itself as he has been backing DGP Siddharth Chattopadhayaya, who retires on March 31, 2022.

According to the Supreme Court’s directions, an officer on the state government’s panel has to have at least six months of service left. In Chattopadhayaya’s case, if the Punjab government had delayed sending the names even by a day, the officer would not have been eligible.

Sources said the Home department has sent the panel of 10 IPS officers to UPSC with officials working overtime to prepare the documents. “The panel was mailed at night. We are preparing the documents to support the application. A representative will travel at night to hand them to UPSC,” a senior official said.

According to the official, there were questions on whether the panel of names should be handed over personally, and whether the government could send the names when incumbent DGP Dinkar Gupta had not resigned and only proceeded on leave.

“There is a precedent as during Covid, official work was undertaken on mail. As for Gupta, the government can send a panel after the DGP completes two years of his tenure. In Gupta’s case, he has been a DGP for the past two years and seven months,” the official said.

After staying put at his residence in Patiala following his resignation, Sidhu came to Chandigarh Thursday to meet Channi in the presence of Congress central observer Harish Chaudhary. Pargat Singh, who is a close aide of Sidhu and a Cabinet Minister, was also part of the meeting that was held following an invitation from Channi.

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