Days after the leak of a letter on the drugs case written by ADGP SK Asthana, the Punjab government on Thursday removed Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota from the post of officiating DGP and gave the charge to DGP PSPCL Siddharth Chattopadhayaya. The development comes two days after Union Public Service Commission set the ball rolling for appointing State’s new Director General of Police by convening the empanelment committee meeting on December 21,
Sources told The Indian Express that the government was left red-faced after Asthana proceeded on medical leave when asked to act on the STF report on drugs, and his letter to the DGP, stating that there was no legal provision under which the government could act against SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia, was leaked. Subsequently, Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi had ordered a probe into the matter.
The appointment of regular DGP has remained a hot potato in poll-bound Punjab where state unit chief of ruling Congress Navjot Singh Sidhu has been believed to be pushing for 1986-batch IPS officer Siddharth Chattopadhyaya as DGP. Sidhu was miffed at appointment of Sahota, handpicked by Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi who replaced Captain Amarinder Singh as Punjab CM. Sidhu had questioned Sahota’s conduct in handling the cases linked to sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib and subsequent police firing in 2015. Sahota has refuted the allegations.
But after the Asthana imbroglio, the Channi government was upset with the DGP both for the leak and the reluctance of his officers to act in important cases.
Incidentally, the development to replace Sahota as officiating DGP also coincides with an indefinite protest launched on Thursday by Sukhraj Singh, son of Bhagwan Krishan Singh, who was among the two killed in police firing on anti-sacrilege protestors on October 14, 2015 at Behbal Kalan in Faridkot district. The government is expecting the panel from UPSC after its meeting on December 21. Sources said the next DGP will be in place on December 22.
After Sidhu mounted pressure, CM Channi led government sent the panel of 10 officers to the UPSC on September 30, and ensured that Chattopadhyaya, who figured in the panel, remained in the race for the post of DGP. Norms mandate that any officer considered for the post should have six months of service period left. Chattopadhyaya is due to retire on March 31, 2022.
The Punjab government orders on Thursday accessed by The Indian Express read that in place of Sahota, who was Special DGP Armed Battalions, PSPCL DGP Chattopadhyaya “shall look after the work of Director General of Police, Punjab (HoPF (Head of Police Force) in addition to his present duties until a fresh appointment is made to the post of Director General of Police, Punjab (HoPF) as per prescribed procedure.”
It further read, “The orders will come into force with immediate effect”.
Both Sahota and Chattopadhyaya were not available for comment nor was Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa who holds the portfolio of Home department.
The officers whose names were sent to the UPSC include Dinkar Gupta of 1987 batch. Gupta was replaced with Sahota, who is also in the list of officers sent by Punjab government to the UPSC, as DGP after the ouster of Captain Amarinder Singh as CM.
The other officers who made it to the panel sent by Punjab government on September 30 are M K Tiwari and V K Bhawra (1987 batch); Prabodh Kumar and Rohit Choudhary (1988 batch); Sanjeev Kalra and Parag Jain (1989 batch); and B K Uppal (1991 batch).
The empanelment committee would shortlist three IPS officers while factoring in the service record and other criteria. The state government would then appoint the next DGP from amongst the panel of the three officers shortlisted by the UPSC.
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