Above: CM of Punjab Capt Amrinder Singh
~By Vipin Pubby
Even as the entire nation’s focus was on the high-decibels and high-stakes Assembly elections in Karnataka, an unusual and inexplicable drama had been taking place during the by-election for an insignificant Assembly constituency in Punjab.
Such was the play of events and strange twists and turns that even the chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh had to intervene and ‘expose’ an otherwise small player in state administration — a Station House Officer (SHO) — who holds the rank of a police inspector and some time even a lower rank.
The inspector, Parminder Pal Singh Bajwa, was removed as the SHO of the Mehatpur police station, a week before the by-election was announced, appointed back by the Election Commission, removed again by the Commission, faced arrest and has now been sent for psychiatric help.
The drama, which is not over yet and made mockery of the law, involved registration of cases at unearthly hours, cctv footage of a 5-star hotel, trumped up charges, sleazy videos, sting operations, political conspiracies, snooping on women visitors at late night and call details of the SHO who had registered an FIR. It was, however, no ordinary FIR.
It was registered against the Congress candidate from the Shahkot Assembly constituency, Hardev Singh Laddi Sherowali, hours after the ruling party declared him as the party candidate on May 3. The charges were that he was involved in illegal sand mining in the area and his phone conversations, in which he was allegedly promising to ‘adjust’ some people in sand mining business, were leaked. Obviously the filing of an FIR against was a huge setback for the ruling party and Bajwa, who had been appointed SHO on the same day, had declared that he would shortly arrest the candidate.
To begin with, the FIR was not registered at the Police Station as is the logical and normal procedure. It was done by the EC-appointed SHO in a 5-star hotel in the early hours of the day. The registration of the FIR, as revealed by the Congress a couple of days later, was followed by phone calls to local Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders.
It is not usual that an SHO level police personnel, who draws a humble pay package, would be checking in at 5-star hotels and working hard overnight to file an FIR. That was, however, a fact as per the cctv footage and records procured by a shocked Police establishment the next day. The police top brass, obviously, went into an overdrive and shared details of a woman friend of the SHO who also walked in and stayed with the SHO in the hotel. Such was the meticulous job done by Police sleuths that they provided the exact time they checked in, what they ate and how was the payment made the next morning.
A rattled Congress government petitioned the Election Commission (EC) to request it to shift the SHO as he was ‘biased’. The EC conducted its own inquiry and shifted him to another police station. The officer, in the meantime, went underground and sent out his resignation which was shared by him with the media. A few hours later, however, he changed his mind and withdrew the resignation.
Even as the state police launched a manhunt for him, Bajwa dramatically appeared in civilian clothes and clean shaven (earlier he had been supporting a beard and wore a turban) before a district judge. But that was not before another drama outside the judge’s court. He pushed away police personnel stationed outside the court and carried his service revolver inside the court complex.
He was promptly disarmed and arrested for obstructing public servants from doing their duty and for carrying a firearm inside a court room under the relevant provisions of IPC and Arms Act. Subsequently it was alleged that he had lost balance of mind and was referred to a psychiatric for treatment. Police sources also claimed, though not on record, that he was under the influence of drugs.
Little has been heard about the suspended SHO since he was arrested even though the local SAD and AAP leaders have been asking an investigation. Perhaps more details would tumble out only after May 28 when the by-election takes place and the result is announced.