New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday appointed a five-member committee headed by a retired judge of the apex court to investigate the ‘major breach‘ in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s security in Punjab on 5 January.
In the meantime, the inquiries commissioned by the central and Punjab governments will be put on hold.
While a detailed order is yet to the passed, a bench comprising Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Hima Kohli orally said it proposes to include the director general of police in Chandigarh, the ADGP (security) in Punjab, an inspector general of the National Investigation Agency and the registrar general of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the committee.
Last week, the PM was on his way to address a rally in Punjab’s Ferozepur by road, after inclement weather forced a changed in plans for him to take a helicopter out of Bathinda airport, when protesting farmers blocked the road, resulting in him being stuck on a flyover for 15-20 minutes. He had to then cancel his visit and return, in what the Ministry of Home Affairs later called a “major security breach”.
The court was then approached by NGO Lawyers Voice, seeking a court-monitored inquiry into the alleged lapse. On Friday, the court had directed the registrar general of the Punjab and Haryana HC to secure the records related to the PM’s visit, and had also orally asked the Centre and state governments to put on hold their respective probe committees.
During the hearing Monday, Punjab’s Advocate General D.S. Patwalia told the court that despite Friday’s order, the Centre issued seven show cause notices to state officers, including the chief secretary and the DG, asking them why action should not be taken against them.
“Where have these show cause notices come from?” Patwalia asked, asserting that the court should appoint an independent committee because the Punjab government officers “will not get a fair hearing from the central government”.
“On what basis has their finding come? The evidence is not before you. The show cause notice presumes and premeditates everything against us. I don’t expect a fair hearing, please appoint an independent committee, hang my officers if they’re guilty,” Patwalia added.
‘Complete intelligence failure’
In response, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta referred to provisions of the Special Protection Group Act and the ‘Blue book’ compiled under this Act, on the steps to be taken for the prime minister’s protection.
He asserted that the role of the SPG is ensuring “proximate security” for the PM and that it was the DGP and state officers’ responsibility to provide inputs on the crowds gathering on the flyover.
“There was no communication. There has to be communication that there’s a clear road, and if there’s a blockade, the vehicle is stopped 4 or 5 km ahead of it. There was complete intelligence failure… If there was violation of SPG Act and Blue Book, there’s no need for hearing etc,” Mehta then said, adding that “the very fact that the state is defending them (the officers) is very, very serious”.
He also asserted that this was not an “unscheduled travel”. Mehta then demanded that the committee constituted by the Centre should be allowed to look into the matter and submit a report in three weeks.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)