Wednesday, January 22, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Several questions remain unanswered
Prabhjot Singh & Yoginder Gupta
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, January 21
The police action against a senior Punjab IAS officer and his colleague’s wife here last night reads like a mini-thriller, foggy night, high speed limousines, with the principal characters trying to put up fake identities.

The Panchkula house from where a senior Punjab IAS officer along with a colleague’s wife were picked up by the Haryana police on Monday night
The Panchkula house from where a senior Punjab IAS officer along with a colleague’s wife were picked up by the Haryana police on Monday night. — Tribune photo Manoj Mahajan

The incident, as reported by The Tribune today, has aroused not only tremendous public curiosity and interest but has also left several questions unanswered.

The officer and his companion were picked up from House No. 118, Sector 9, after, the Panchkula police claims, it received a telephonic call in its control-room about the movement of certain suspicious persons in the house. When the police descended on the house, the officer took time in answering the police knock.

He declared himself to be Jaspal, son of Devi Lal, a resident of Sector 19. The woman identified herself as Saroj Gupta wife of Harish Gupta, a resident of Noida. She also reportedly told the police that she belonged to Lucknow and had reached Chandigarh only a few hours ago.

This version was contradictory of what the chowkidar-cum-servant of the house, Harish, had told the police. He had told the police that the man was a senior officer of Punjab and the woman was his wife. They had been frequent visitors to the house. His master, Sumanto Kapoor, a travel agent in Chandigarh, had instructed him that whenever the officer and his companion visit the house, they should be allowed free access.

Neither Mr Kapoor, a bachelor, nor his mother were present in the house at the time of the police raid. The mother was reportedly out of station. The police party was led by Mr Deshbandhu, DSP, Panchkula, (Headquarters).

The suspects were brought to the Sector 5 police station around 8-30 p.m. The officer and his companion, informed sources say, got panicky in the police station. The woman broke down. The suspects revealed their identities. A police official, the sources say, contacted the woman’s husband, a senior IAS officer of Punjab, to establish her identity. The husband reportedly did not believe the police story and asked the officer to let him talk to the woman. For reasons best known to the police officer, the husband was not put through to his wife.

Meanwhile, the sources say, the woman, whose mobile was earlier switched off, rang up her husband. The sources say she told her husband she had taken the wife of her tailor to the PGI and she was still in the hospital. The husband obviously believed his wife rather than the police version. This led to a delay in establishing the true identity of the suspects.

The police was getting restive. A nervous Punjab officer rang up a few friends, including one of the top Punjab bureaucrats. The sources say two top-most bureaucrats of Punjab requested a Punjab and Haryana High Court senior counsel, Mr A.R. Takkar, to reach the police station immediately and sort out the matter. Mr Takkar reached the police station in his E-class Mercedes (HR51K-0005). The Tribune team also reached the police station by that time. Besides Mr Takkar’s Mercedes, two more cars — an Ambassador(PB 65 — 7373) and a Mitsubishi Lancer with a Chandigarh number — were present in the police station when the Tribune team visited it.

Mr Takkar, the officer and his companion were sitting in the SHO’s room along with Mr Deshbandhu. The police, which had now been overawed by the presence of VIP guests in the police station, had called in its Deputy District Attorney, Mr Suresh Parmar, to cover its track.

The Punjab IAS officer, the sources say, wrote in his own hand in Hindi that his companion had come to Panchkula at his request as he had certain urgent matter to discuss with her. However, on their way due to foggy night they lost their way and strayed into House No. 118, Sector 9. The chowkidar of the house called the police. After “we had proved our identities”, the police was satisfied.

The statement was signed by the officer as well as his companion. Their identities were testified by the tailor, “Master ....”, and the official driver of the officer.

Interestingly, the Panchkula police handed over the custody of the woman to the tailor and that of the officer to his driver.

The Panchkula police vehemently denied yesterday about the presence of the officer and his companion in the police station when The Tribune team wanted to know its version of the incident. The Sector 9 house belongs to Dr Madan Gulati, who has rented it out to two tenants. Mr Kapoor is one of them.

Was the police action against the Punjab officer and his companion the result of professional rivalry in the Punjab bureaucracy? Was it part of a special drive launched by the Panchkula police recently? Or still, was it a chance incident? Many people are baffled why the officer and his companion were kept at the police station for about three hours. Why are so many discrepancies there in the statements by different people and police officers?

What important and urgent matter was to be discussed by the officer with the wife of his senior colleague at Panchkula, late in a foggy night, especially when the Chief Minister was hosting an official dinner? There may be more questions left unanswered by the incomplete(some may say the hasty) action of the Panchkula police?

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