Punjab in a spot over Ponty Chadha (Punjab Newsletter)

Chandigarh, Nov 30: He was an enigma during his lifetime and his sudden death has deepened the mystery around him and those close to him. The life of liquor and real estate baron Ponty Chadha, who was killed in a shootout at a farmhouse in Delhi earlier this month, is haunting Punjab Police and the authorities even after his death.

The first thing that has put Punjab Police and the Parkash Singh Badal government on the defensive is the justification for providing heavily armed personnel to Ponty Chadha and his family members. Even at the shootout at the Chhatarpur farmhouse where Ponty and his younger brother Hardeep Chadha were killed under mysterious circumstances, Punjab Armed Police personnel were present and detained by Delhi Police.

A senior Punjab Police officer was immediately dispatched to Delhi to look into the role of its personnel in the shootout.

Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also home minister, had initiated an exercise a few months ago to drastically cut down security cover extended to certain VIPs.

Badal is on the defensive now in justifying how Punjab Police personnel continued to be deployed for the Chadha brothers despite their not holding any official position in the state.

“Under what category, other than political patronage, were the Chadha’s retaining their security? Why was the security not withdrawn when this was taken away from several others earlier this year? Did they (the Chadhas) hold any official position that entitled them to this level of security cover from Punjab,” asked a senior officer at the Punjab Police headquarters.

Badal, unable to justify the Chadhas’ security, has only said that the “ornamental” cover to VIPs will be reviewed further and only “genuine” cases will be entertained.

Ponty Chadha and his empire had business interests in real estate, malls, liquor and industry across Punjab. He was considered close to ruling Akali Dal leaders, including Sukhbir Badal, and Congress leaders like former chief minister and state Congress president Amarinder Singh.

Punjab Police and local authorities are also on the backfoot owing to their benevolence to Ponty Chadha’s close aide Sukhdev Singh Namdhari, who has been arrested by Delhi Police for allegedly conspiring in the killing.

Namdhari, who has been sacked as chief of Uttarakhand’s minorities commission, was present at the farmhouse when the shootout took place and his role in it is being investigated.

Punjab Police have said that an inquiry will be held into how Namdhari procured a licence for his 7.62 mm pistol from Mohali town near Chandigarh despite being a resident of Bajpur in Uttarakhand’s Udham Singh Nagar district.

Passport officials in Jalandhar are also probing the police clearances given to Namdhari, who tried to obtain a passport on a fake Punjab address while not living in the state. The role of state police officers is under the scanner in this regard.

Namdhari’s passport has been impounded by the regional passport officer (RPO), Jalandhar.

“We had received a complaint regarding fake particulars being given to obtain the passport. We have impounded his passport. The police have been asked to conduct an inquiry into how his antecedents were verified by police officers,” Jalandhar RPO Parneet Singh said.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

IANS