After drawing flak from the Centre over the delay in action on the breach of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s security during his Punjab visit in January last year, the state’s chief secretary Vijay Kumar Janjua said on Monday that all the indicted officers will be charged.
After a missive from the Centre last week in which Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla asked the Punjab chief secretary to submit an action-taken report, Janjua said that the state home secretary has already moved the file to the chief minister (Bhagwant Mann) seeking approval for issuing charge sheets against the nine erring IPS officers, including former DGP S Chattopadhyaya.
Regarding the former chief secretary Anirudh Tewari, Janjua said he has already been issued a show-cause notice.
“I have moved a file to the chief minister regarding approval for a charge sheet against Tewari, and hopefully, the file will be cleared soon. The chief minister’s office (CMO) has raised a few queries, and I am replying to them,” he said.
Janjua said that the file for issuing charge sheets against the erring IPS officers is also with the CM.
“The home department has sent the file to the chief minister, who also holds the portfolio of home, narrating all the lapses of all officers concerned during the PM’s visit. Once we get clearance from the CM, the charge sheets will be issued,” Janjua said.
Janjua said Punjab will submit the action-taken report to the Centre soon.
Irked by the delay, the Centre could consider options to act against the officers under the Special Protection Group (SPG) Act, said Punjab government officials in the know of the developments.
Under Section 14 of the SPG Act, the state government is responsible for providing all assistance to the SPG during the PM’s movement.
The provision titled ‘Assistance to Group’ states: “It shall be the duty of every Ministry and Department of the Central Government or the State Government or the Union Territory Administration, every Indian Mission, every local or other authority or every civil or military authority to act in aid of the Director or any member of the Group whenever called upon to do so in furtherance of the duties and responsibilities assigned to such Director or member.”
“The SPG Act was violated by the Punjab officials, and the Centre can act against any erring officers. The Union home minister is waiting for the state’s reply and if unsatisfied, the Centre is likely to intervene. They want to set an example so that no such breach could take place in future,” said one of the officials privy to the developments.
The report of the Supreme Court-appointed inquiry committee looking into the breach submitted six months ago indicts the then state chief secretary Anirudh Tewari and the police chief S Chattopadhyaya for lapses.
On March 7, HT was the first to report the findings submitted by the five-member committee led by retired Supreme Court justice Indu Malhotra. Till then, the only finding of the report in the public domain was that it held senior superintendent of police Harmandeep Singh Hans responsible for the lapse. HT has reviewed a copy of the report.
Besides Hans, Tewari and Chattopadhyaya, the committee has indicted additional directors general of police G Nageswara Rao and Naresh Arora, inspectors general Rakesh Aggarwal and Inderbir Singh, then deputy inspector general Surjeet Singh (now retired), and senior superintendent of police Charanjit Singh.
Earlier this week, Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla asked Punjab chief secretary Vijay Kumar Janjua to submit an action taken report, highlighting the delay by the state government in acting against the erring officers. The HT report also mentioned this delay.
The report was submitted to the apex court and the Union government on August 25 last year. In September, the latter forwarded it to the Aam Aadmi Party-led state government, which is yet to act on it. The security breach happened during the tenure of the previous Congress government in the state.
The Supreme Court ordered the inquiry after the convoy of PM Modi was stranded for half an hour on a flyover when he was travelling by road from Bathinda airport to Ferozepur on January 5, 2022. A belligerent crowd of about 300 protesters gathered at the end of the flyover, prompting the Special Protection Group, which protects the Prime Minister, to halt the convoy and head back to the airport.
The report indicted the Punjab police brass for their casual and negligent attitude, and referred to the incident as “a colossal failure in planning and coordination”.