CHANDIGARH: Punjab government overnight changed its police chief, a few hours after a closed door meeting of Congress leaders including CM Charanjit Singh Channi and Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu at Punjab Congress Bhawan on Thursday night.
The Channi government, in a notice issued on Thursday (December 16, 2021), appointed Siddharth Chattopadhyaya as Director-General of Police (DGP). The decision to appoint Chattopadhyaya as the new DGP of Punjab, replacing IPS Iqbal Preet Sahota, comes ahead of the Assembly polls in the state.
The appointment of Chattopadhyaya comes at a time when his report submitted before Punjab and Haryana high court is set to create furore over accusations against a retired DGP Suresh Arora and his junior and former DGP Dinkar Gupta (1987-batch IPS), who had managed to enjoy plum postings for 12 years during both Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Congress regime. Gupta’s wife Vini Mahajan was unceremoniously removed as chief secretary after Channi took charge. She had faced scrutiny over distribution of ventilators from Centre during COVID first and second wave. She had also faced inquiry in the UPA-era coal scam by the CBI.
It is unclear whether Chhatopadhyaya will remain in saddle till elections or beyond as he is due to March 2022. Also, the list of panel sent by Punjab government includes names of 10 IPS officers but there is ambiguity whether UPSC will consider October 5 as the last date of considering the names when the list was shared. Punjab government had hurriedly sent the list, hoping that Chattopadhyay would fulfil the criterion with six months of tenure still list left.
“Chattopadhyay remains one of the most dilligent and honest officers of Punjab government. The Badal led government sidelined him because he took cudgels against a certain mafia during their regime. The Congress government under Amarinder ignored him on Dinkar Gupta’s insistence. But now, their dirty games have been exposed. Chattopadhyay’s charges and report would also be now re-examined and he is one officer who would not hesitate to probe any charges of drug trade in Punjab against any minister or police officer. He had disclosed their names previously,” said a top cop.
The notice issued by the Punjab government read, “In place of Sh. Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota, IPS (PB:1988) Special DGP Armed Bn., Jalandhar, Sh. Siddharth Chattopadhyaya, IPS (PB:1986) DGP, PSPCL, Patiala shall look after the work of Director General of Police, Punjab (HoPF) 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. The orders will come into force with immediate effect.”
Siddharth Chattopadhyaya is to retire on March 31, 2022.
According to sources, Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu raised his concerns about the changing of DGP in the meeting, but was assured by the CM Charanjit Singh Channi. The meeting started at about 6 pm and concluded at about 8.30 pm.
Notably, Sidhu was unhappy over handing charge of DGP to Sahota saying he had accused two siblings of being behind the Bargari sacrilege case of October 2015.
During a cabinet meeting of Punjab, the CM had said that the state government has sent 10 names of senior IPS officers. DGP Sahota is considered close to chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi.
The new DGP of Punjab Siddharth Chattopadhyaya, is a 1986-batch IPS officer. He will continue to hold the charge of chief director, vigilance bureau and Sahota will continue to be DGP, PAP Jalandhar.