Chandigarh: Even as it faces relentless criticism from the opposition over the “deteriorating” law and order situation in Punjab, the Bhagwant Mann-led AAP government has made no efforts to appoint a director general of police (DGP) for the past eight months and the state continues to make do with an acting police chief.
In July last year, Gaurav Yadav, a 1992-batch IPS officer, was appointed as officiating DGP after 1987-batch IPS officer and then DGP V.K. Bhawra went on two months’ leave. Bhawra had been given the top post in January the same year.
However, in September, a day before his leave was to end, Bhawra was removed by the AAP government citing deteriorating law and order situation and posted as chairman of the Punjab Police Housing Corporation.
In 2018, the Supreme Court had clarified that there is no concept of an “acting DGP” in its 2006 Prakash Singh judgment on police reforms, and a regular DGP has to be appointed by the state government in consultation with the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).
According to an official order issued last September, Gaurav Yadav continued as acting DGP and since then, the state government has not routed his appointment through the UPSC or found an alternative.
Sources in the state home department told ThePrint Tuesday that the Punjab government has not forwarded any names of IPS officers to the UPSC since last July for appointment as police chief.
ThePrint reached the state’s additional chief secretary (home) Anurag Verma through phone calls and text messages, but received no response till the time of publishing of this report. This report will be updated if and when a response is received.
Earlier this month, the Congress had demanded Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s resignation for having “failed” to keep criminals under control.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal also took to Twitter to criticise the government: “The law and order situation in Punjab is turning bad to worse with each passing day. Every day begins in the state with news of loot, murder, dacoity, and ransom calls. Despite this, no corrective steps are being taken.”
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The SC judgment
Giving specific directions regarding DGP appointments, the Supreme Court had in a July 2018 order said that all states have to send their proposals (names of eligible officers) to the UPSC at least three months prior to the date of retirement of the incumbent DGP. The UPSC will then prepare a panel of three officers suitable for elevation to the post of DGP and send this list to the state government. The states will have to appoint the DGP from the officers empanelled by the UPSC, read the order.
Later that year, five state governments — West Bengal, Punjab, Haryana, Bihar and Kerala — filed applications asking for modification of the SC order as they argued that ‘police’ and ‘public order’ are state subjects. In January 2019, the top court rejected these pleas. However, over the years, several states passed laws or executive orders to circumvent the empanelment process of the UPSC.
The last time the Punjab government sent names of eligible officers for the DGP post to the UPSC was in 2021. In January 2022, the UPSC sent a panel to the Punjab government with names of three officers: Bhawra, Dinkar Gupta (1987-batch IPS officer) and Prabodh Kumar (1988 batch).
Sources in the state home department told ThePrint Tuesday that like some other states in the country, the Punjab government has also circumvented directions (through executive orders and state laws) issued by the Supreme Court.
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In Punjab, DGP ‘musical chairs’
Notably, former Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh had appointed Dinkar Gupta as state DGP through the procedure laid down by the top court in February 2019.
A virtual musical chairs followed, when in September 2021, the Congress’s Charanjit Singh Channi became the CM amid infighting in the party. After Dinkar Gupta proceeded on leave in September 2021, 1988-batch officer Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota — posted as Special DGP Armed Battalion Jalandhar at the time — was given the additional charge of DGP (HoPF). Then Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu was unhappy with Sahota’s appointment.
Before his appointment could be regularised by UPSC, Sahota was replaced by 1986-batch officer Siddharth Chattopadhyaya, who was then DGP (Punjab State Power Corporation Limited). Within three weeks, Chattopadhyaya was replaced by Bhawra.
In early April 2022, Mann appointed Gaurav Yadav who was then ADGP (modernisation) as special principal secretary to CM. Within days, Yadav was posted as ADGP administration.
In June 2022, the state government promoted Yadav and three other IPS officers of the 1992 batch to the rank of the DGP. In July, he was handed the additional charge of DGP (HoPF).
According to the gradation list of IPS officers, there are, at present, more than a dozen officers in the state who are eligible for the post of DGP. These include Dinkar Gupta who is posted as DG, National Investigation Agency (NIA), Parag Jain (1989 batch), posted as additional secretary in the cabinet secretariat, and Harpreet Singh Sidhu (1992 batch) who is the ADGP Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).
The other eligible officers include Prabodh Kumar (1988 batch), Sanjeev Kalra (1989 batch), Sharad Satya Chauhan (1992 batch), Kuldeep Singh (1992 batch). Another seven DGPs of 1993 batch who were promoted to the DGP rank in January also qualify.
(Edited by Anumeha Saxena)
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