The controversial superintendent of police Salwinder Singh, who may be asked to take “premature retirement” from service, was suspended as many as six times between May 1996 to April 2005, only to be reinstated each time. Salwinder hit headlines after terrorists hijacked his car on the night of December 31, 2015, and drove it to Pathankot where they infiltrated the airbase and launched an attack on it from inside on January 1, 2016.
He was cleared by the NIA of any involvement with the terrorists, who had dumped him on the way. In September 2016, the department suspended him in a sexual harassment case and will take a decision next week on his premature retirement. In addition to his serial suspensions, official documents accessed by The Indian Express reveal that there are “14 bad entries” in Salwinder’s Character Roll and “serious adverse remarks were also recorded in his ACRs (Annual Confidential Reports) for the period from April 1, 2008 to August 14, 2008 and from September 23, 2008 to January 31, 2009 and his submissions against these adverse remarks were considered and rejected by the State government”.
But despite all this, Salwinder, who joined the Punjab Police as ASI in 1986, managed to rise steadily and mysteriously up the police hierarchy to the level of Deputy Superintendent of Police, and got the designation of Superintendent of Police (charge & rank without emoluments) when he was posted to Gurdaspur. When the Pathankot attack took place, he had already relinquished charge as SP Gurdaspur, after being transferred to a Punjab Armed Police battalion in Jalandhar, but he had not yet taken charge at his place of transfer. That transfer too came because of a sexual harassment complaint against him by junior policewomen.
Salwinder also stands accused of several other serious misdemeanors, including several extended periods of absence from duty, raising questions about why and how he was reinstated each time. He is said to be a close to a senior Akali leader, but he was promoted to DSP in 2006, during the previous Congress tenure. Salwinder’s last suspension before the present one was from January 2005 to April 25, 2005. At the time, he was alleged to have picked up a minor boy in a theft case and taken him to Amritsar.
The first was on May 23, 1996, for “not taking any action” in a complaint. He was reinstated on September 16, 1996. He was again suspended the following year for having absented himself from duty for 10-15 days at a time, on four occasions between August and October 1997. He was suspended from October 7, 1997, to February 4, 1998, and reinstated a day later, with the suspension period treated as non duty/non pay.
Barely two months after his reinstatement, Salwinder was suspended again in April that year till August 10, 1988, for absence from duty. That was his third suspension. He was reinstated on August 11, 1998, but this time with effect from May 10, 1998. The period from April 16,1998, to May 17, 1998, as per official records, was treated as “medical leave”.
His fourth suspension was from September 10 to September 26, 2002, for a “lapse” during his posting in Amritsar. By this time, he has become an Inspector. He was again reinstated, the departmental inquiry report was filed and suspension period was regularised as duty period. The reason mentioned for his suspension was that unknown persons opened fire on a police official who was on patrolling duty in the area of Sant Avenue in which one police official was injured.
DSP (Rural-2) proceeded to the place of incident and on the way met Salwinder, who was coming from bridge Tara Wala. DSP asked him about the incident and Salwinder said information was correct but did not reach the spot. On December 6, 2003, Salwinder was suspended again, this time for “having been involved” in criminal case registered in on December 4, 2003, at Jalandhar under sections of Prevention of Corruption Act. He was reinstated in service on March 8, 2004.
Currently, as many as five departmental inquiries are pending against Salwinder. He was chargesheeted on July 7, 2015, for being absent from duty. The inquiry officer found him guilty and ordered his two increments stopped with cumulative effect for which approval of Punjab Public Service Commission is still awaited. During his stint in Gurdaspur, when was a DSP but got the “local” rank of SP, a system of designation without the salary scale.
He was chargesheeted in a case on November 24, 2015, for transferring a policeman without the permission of Gurdaspur SSP and conducting a “wrong inquiry” in a cheating case dating to 2013 registered at Kahnuwan police station. “The inquiry officer has found him guilty and submitted his report to government, on which the officer also preferred his comments. The matter is under consideration,” say the official documents.
The SP was also chargesheeted in another case on November 9, 2016, for absence from duty on registration of a case of sexual abuse against him on August 3, 2016. The inquiry officer in the case, retired Additional District and Sessions Judge M S Rattu, found him guilty in a report submitted to government on April 14 this year. The report was sent to Salwinder on May 4 and his comments are still awaited.
He was also chargesheeted on November 9, 2016, over the allegations of “conducting second marriage”. Government-appointed inquiry officer retired Additional District and Sessions Judge B R Bansal is probing the matter. Another chargesheet was issued to Salwinder on March 21 this year on the basis of inquiry report submitted by Internal Complaint Committee in connection with sexual harassment with the lady police employees of Gurdaspur district. The receipt of chargesheet has been received from the officer on April 1. The reply of chargesheet is still awaited.
Salwinder was placed on suspension on September 9, 2016, after August 2016 sexual abuse case was registered against him. After suspension, he reported in police headquarters at Chandigarh on September 14, 2016, but did not attend the office later. State government was requested to initiate departmental inquiry against him in December 2 106 for “leaving his station without permission from competent authority”.
A screening committee headed by Punjab chief secretary is scheduled to meet on Monday to decide on “premature retirement” of Salwinder. Punjab DGP Suresh Arora had recommended SP’s premature retirement, citing a list of incidents of misconduct, indiscipline, and criminal cases against him. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who holds the home portfolio had given his nod, following which review committee will take the final call on “premature retirement” on the basis of laid down procedures.
The agenda note prepared by Home department for the Monday meeting by Chief Secretary reads, “The charges in the departmental inquiries are very serious in nature and amount to gravest misconduct. Besides, he was also absent from his headquarters fixed during his suspension period. Being a member of police force, instead of acting as a custodian of law and order, he misused his official position.”