PSOs detained, ‘eyewitness’ says Hardeep fired first

Initial investigations seem to confirm that the shootout between liquor baron Ponty Chadha and his younger brother Hardeep, in which both were killed, was provoked by the former's attempt to take possession of a south Delhi farmhouse. The shooting on Saturday afternoon took place on the road right outside the back gate of farmhouse No. 42 in Chhattarpur, owned by the Chadha family.

The Mehrauli police station has filed a case on the complaint of Sukhdev Singh Namdhari, chairman of the Uttarakhand Minorities Commission who was Ponty's friend and is an eyewitness in the case, under Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and Section 25 of the Arms Act. Hardeep's manager has also filed a case, accusing Ponty's men of trespassing and murder.

While no one has been arrested so far, PSOs assigned to the men involved in the shootout have been detained by the police. However, having seized the pistols owned by Hardeep and the carbine used by Namdhari's PSO Sachin Tyagi, the police say that prima facie it appears shots hadn't been fired from the Punjab Police PSOs's weapons.

While Hardeep owned pistols of .32 and .30 bore, both licensed, Tyagi has a 9 mm carbine that was allegedly fired in "self-defence", killing Hardeep.

Namdhari has said in his complaint that Ponty and he had come to the farmhouse at around 12 noon. According to him, while they were still in the car, Ponty's aide Narender Kumar Ahwalwat got out and went to the gate.

"As the gate was being opened from inside, I saw Hardeep with his men near our car. Hardeep fired at the car and then at Narender, who was hit. Ponty tried to flee, but was shot. I opened the car's door and ducked under the car but Hardeep fired at me also. Two shots were fired in my direction. My security guard fired at Hardeep in retaliation," says Namdhari's complaint.

One of the bullets apparently pierced the bonnet of the Land Cruiser which Ponty was in. A few bullets reportedly fired by Tyagi also hit the two sides of the wall bordering the main gate.

Ponty suffered 12 bullet wounds while Hardeep was shot four times. Narender, Ponty's guard, was seriously injured and underwent surgery.

A police official said the immediate trigger for Saturday's incident was Ponty using black ink to erase Hardeep's name from the nameplate outside the farmhouse. Just minutes before Hardeep reportedly fired at Ponty, he spoke to his lawyer and informed him that Ponty had barged inside the farmhouse illegally.

"We are waiting for the postmortem report to verify the statement of Namdhari and other statements," said a police official.

On Saturday afternoon, SSP, Chandigarh police headquarters, came to the Mehrauli police station to get details about the Punjab Police personnel. The latter have reportedly said that Ponty's security was inside the farmhouse since 10 in the morning. Hardeep's personnel claim they did not fire a single shot.

A team of the Uttarakhand Police has also come to New Delhi to collect details on Namdhari's guard Tyagi. Uttarakhand DGP Satyabrat Bansal said Tyagi had been with Namdhari since 2010.

While only three weapons have been made case properties, weapons belonging to the six PSOs of Ponty and Hardeep have also been taken into custody. Besides, the police have confiscated the hockey sticks recovered from the farmhouse.

The three Chadha brothers — Ponty, Hardeep and Rajinder — were jointly managing the Rs 6,000-crore Wave Inc, formerly Chadha Group, which has diverse business interests in fields ranging from distilleries, multiplexes, sugar to paper mills.

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