M A I N   N E W S

EC clears Gill as new Punjab police chief
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 20
The Election Commission today cleared the name of R.S. Gill to be appointed as the new DGP, Punjab.
The 1973 batch IPS officer is at present posted as the Director of Punjab Police Academy (PPA) at Phillaur. Mr Gill has been honoured with the President Police Medal for Distinguished Services in 2002.

Highly placed sources said the name of Gill was cleared after the three-member EC deliberated on the names of three DGP-level officers sent by the state government. They also checked the antecedents of the officers to know whether they had political leaning with one or the other party.

The poll panel’s move follows its order to transfer of the controversial DGP S.S. Virk.

Earlier, the EC ordered the transfer of Mr S.S. Virk. The EC also ordered him to be taken off from all election-related duties.

Following the directive, the state government has sent a panel of three names of DGP-level officers of the Punjab police for appointment as the state police chief.

The directive came after the EC inquired into a complaint filed by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), alleging that there was a deal between Capt Amarinder Singh and the DGP over the proposed Rs 240-crore Chandigarh International Convention Centre to be set up by the DGP’s brother near Chandigarh.

EC spokesperson said the directive came as substantial concerns had been raised recently regarding his (Mr Virk’s) credibility and perceived neutrality in the forthcoming Assembly elections.

Defending the decision, Cabinet Secretary B.K. Chaturvedi said the EC had “members of great wisdom and we should respect their decision”.

The Cabinet Secretary’s clarification came in view of Punjab Chief Minister’s reported criticism of the EC’s order.

Pointing out that Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalswami, a former Home Secretary, and members Navin Chawla and S.Y. Qureshi had wide administrative experience and were well aware of the rules, Mr Chaturvedi said, “We should always remember that they are the people of wisdom and not question their decisions”.

However, the Akalis were jubilant. SAD general secretary Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa told The Tribune, “Our stand has been vindicated”.

“We had been constantly demanding that free and fair elections in Punjab would not be possible if Mr Virk was allowed to function as the state DGP. Now, that the EC has decided to transfer him, we welcome the move,” he said.

Earlier, Mr Gopalaswami had rejected the SAD demand while reviewing election preparedness in the state on January 9, but had warned the official that action would be taken against him if he was not found to be neutral and fair.

Meanwhile, the EC has appointed two observers for each of the 117 Assembly constituencies and one Lok Sabha by-election. While one will look after election expenses, the other will monitor the elections and the conduct of candidates.

The last date for the filing of nominations for the February 13 election has been fixed as January 25. The scrutiny of nomination forms will be carried out on January 27, and withdrawal will be allowed till January 29.

The Amritsar Lok Sabha seat fell vacant after the resignation of cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh following his conviction by the Punjab and High Court.



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