The Prize of Corruption: Pune’s New Top Cop is the Officer Who Made Wadhawans’ “Lockdown Picnic” Possible

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The Prize of Corruption: Pune’s New Top Cop is the Officer Who Made Wadhawans’ “Lockdown Picnic” Possible

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

The last time Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Amitabh Gupta’s name cropped up in the media was one he would probably like to forget. It was when billionaire siblings Kapil and Dheeraj Wadhawan were revealed to have violated lockdown measures by travelling from Khandala to Mahabaleshwar in April this year. It later emerged that Gupta was the one who had facilitated their travel by providing them a letter. Now, Gupta is in the news again, this time for a plum post he has just earned. In a reshuffling of 50 top police officers in Maharashtra, Gupta has been transferred to the post of Pune city’s new police commissioner.

Of course, due to the shadow of the incident with the Wadhawans, Gupta’s new appointment has also been accompanied by controversy. To make matters more complicated, the Wadhawans were arrested in connection with the Yes Bank and Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative Bank scams shortly after they arrived in Mahabaleshwar bearing a letter from Gupta calling them his “family friends”. As a result of his role in the matter, Gupta was sent on compulsory leave. He resumed his duties in May, after an inquiry panel headed by Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Manoj Saunik cleared him of wrongdoing.

However, the memory of the occurrence lingers, and there has been opposition to the idea. Ashok Khemka, the IAS officer who took on Robert Vadra, wrote on Twitter that while the victims of the bank scams suffered, “a clique prospered”.

Reporter Vallabh Ozarkar was more direct, asking, “A plum posting as a reward for illegally issuing special pass for accused in serious financial crimes?” Clearly, there is a sentiment that Gupta has avoided accountability in regards to his connection with the Wadhawan siblings, who are currently in jail.

Apart from Gupta’s high-profile transfer, there has been a wide-scale reshuffling of the top brass within Maharashtra Police. Gupta’s predecessor, K Venkatesham, has been transferred to Mumbai to serve as Additional Director General of Special Operations.