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Punjab likely to get its third DGP in three months in VK Bhawra

Two days after UPSC set the ball rolling for appointing new state police chief by convening the empanelment committee meeting on December 21, the state government, on the night of December 16 replaced Sahota with Chattopadhyaya as officiating DGP.

Written by Navjeevan Gopal | Chandigarh |
January 5, 2022 8:08:14 am
The Union Public Service Commission, which held a meeting in New Delhi Tuesday, it was learnt has empaneled three officers for the top post, Bhawra, former state police chief Dinkar Gupta, also of 1987-batch, and 1988-batch IPS officer Prabodh Kumar. (Representational)

Punjab is likely to get 1987-batch IPS officer Viresh Kumar Bhawra as its new state police chief — the third Director General of Police in three months.

The Union Public Service Commission, which held a meeting in New Delhi Tuesday, it was learnt has empaneled three officers for the top post, Bhawra, former state police chief Dinkar Gupta, also of 1987-batch, and 1988-batch IPS officer Prabodh Kumar.

The officiating Punjab DGP and state Congress chief Navjot Sidhu’s choice, 1986-batch IPS officer Siddharth Chattopadhyaya, could not make it to the panel as UPSC considered October 5 as cut-off date to consider the names of IPS officers.

With Kumar having sought central deputation and Gupta being considered a confidant of former chief minister Amarinder Singh and not finding favour with the current dispensation led by Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, the top post is likely to land in Bhawra’s lap.

Kumar, who headed the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that was probing Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan incidents, was transferred as DGP (Provisioning) when he sought the central deputation. He is is currently posted as Special DGP (Investigation) Lokpal, Punjab. Bhawra was appointed as Punjab police intelligence chief in February 2019 replacing Gupta who had then taken over as Punjab DGP.

Earlier, after Sidhu mounted pressure, the Congress government had sent a panel of 10 officers to the UPSC on September 30, and ensured that Chattopadhyaya remained in the race for the top post. Norms mandate that any officer considered for the post should have six-month of service period left. Chattopadhyaya is due to retire on March 31, 2022.

However, UPSC sought clarification on cut-off date to consider the panel of officers. It cited that Gupta relinquished charge of the state DGP on October 5 so that date will be considered as cut-off date, which meant that Chattopadhyaya and another IPS officer in the Punjab government panel, Rohit Choudhary who is also to retire on March 31, could not be considered in the three-member panel to be finalized by the UPSC.

The Punjab government sent another panel of IPS officers, going by the cut-off date of October 5, 2021, but later insisted on considering the panel it had sent on September 30. The UPSC, however, said that it would select an officer from the panel based on October 5 cut-off date.

After change of guard in Congress government in Punjab in September, Gupta proceeded on leave, following which 1988-batch IPS officer Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota was appointed as officiating DGP. During his leave period, Gupta was transferred as Punjab Police Housing Corporation chairman on October 4. Gupta relinquished the charge of Punjab DGP on October 5.

Two days after UPSC set the ball rolling for appointing new state police chief by convening the empanelment committee meeting on December 21 (which was later postponed and held on Tuesday), the state government, on the night of December 16 replaced Sahota with Chattopadhyaya as officiating DGP.

Recipient of President’s Police Medal for gallantry for “neutralizing the topmost terrorists in the state”, Police (Special Duty) Medal, Police Medal for Meritorious Service and Director General’s commendation roll twice during his stint in BSF, Chattopadhyaya was a supervisory officer to investigate the property details of Akali patron and former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his family members in 2003 corruption and disproportionate assets case registered by the erstwhile Congress government led Amarinder Singh in which the Badals and a number of other accused named in the case were acquitted by a Mohali court in 2010 due to lack of evidence.

Akali Dal had been critical of Chattopadhyaya and questioning his appointment as officiating DGP, alleging that party leader Bikram Singh Majithia was framed in a “false drugs case” immediately after he took charge.

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