The Election Commission has suspended an IAS officer who had inspected PM Narendra Modi’s chopper in Odisha’s Sambalpur Tuesday. Critics called the action ‘highly questionable’, and said that EC rules do not exempt SPG protectees from a search. Opposition leaders have accused Modi of repeatedly violating model code in the 2019 election campaign.
ThePrint asks: IAS poll observer: With Modi breaking rules, should EC give him special security treatment?
PMs in India have always enjoyed special security treatment although there are no separate rules
Former legal advisor, Election Commission
In my knowledge, there is no law that bars officials from checking the prime minister’s chopper. The Election Commission has rightly issued an inquiry into the matter, and so we should wait for its report. But from what I know, there are no separate rules and regulations stating that the PM’s chopper cannot be stopped and checked. However, I don’t remember the last time a PM’s chopper was stopped and checked in this manner.
That said, it would be wrong to say that the PM isn’t given a special security treatment. The instructions given by the Home Ministry regarding the PM’s security are also very specific. I remember when Chaudhary Charan Singh was the PM, the Delhi High Court had ruled that special treatment should be meted out to the PM’s aircraft. Thus, the prime minister of the country has always had special arrangements vis-à-vis security.
The Election Commission also has the power to suspend whomsoever they deem worthy of that treatment. If any poll body member commits any wrongdoing, or doesn’t do their job properly, the EC is well within its right to suspend them. It is up to the commission, and it is its discretion, to take such a call.
Modi goes on and on about being ‘chowkidar’ but feels threatened with his chopper getting checked
Joint Secretary, Congress Odisha
An important point to highlight in this fiasco is this: why should the Prime Minister of the country feel threatened by a senior IAS officer checking his chopper? It wasn’t as if the PM Modi was being frisked personally, and so there should have been no reason for him to feel his security was in any way being compromised. As far as the protection of the SPG protectee is concerned, there was no violation of that either.
On the one hand, we keep talking about doing away with the VIP culture of politicians, and on the other hand, we have a PM taking objection to a regular checking. Remember, PM Modi keeps going on and on about how he is this country’s Chowkidaar — then why is there a problem if his chopper undergoes a check?
Dharmendra Pradhan’s behaviour on his chopper being stopped and checked is also equally appalling. If he had nothing to hide, why couldn’t he allow the check?
Odisha Election Commission has suspended the IAS officer behind this check. I have full faith in the EC and I am hopeful that the Election Commission of India will intervene and set up an inquiry on this. The EC shouldn’t be perceived as a constitutional authority that is being controlled or threatened.
Appalling to suggest that EC is giving special treatment to Modi and BJP
National Spokesperson, BJP
The suggestion that the Election Commission may be giving special treatment to Prime Minister Narendra Modi is appalling, and completely untrue. The fact is that the PM is protected by the Special Protection Group. There are certain rules that the administration reporting to the Election Commission is supposed to follow when it comes to people protected by the SPG. Regarding PM Modi’s chopper being stopped, it is the Election Commission’s prerogative to decide whether or not any rules were broken. If it believes the officer in charge did in fact break laws, then it is the EC’s decision, whatever it is.
As far as the EC’s treatment to the BJP and PM Modi is concerned, it has issued a number of directives that prove that there has been no special treatment being given. The strict directives around NaMo TV and temporary ban on campaigning of BJP leaders Maneka Gandhi and Yogi Adityanath are all testament to this.
Even the BJP can accuse the EC of meting out special treatment to Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his baseless attack against PM Modi.
During elections, the PM is just like any other candidate and EC must ensure a level-playing field
North Zone Coordinator, Association for Democratic Reforms
Election and security are two entirely different issues, and they should not be mixed at any point of time. While it is correct that the security of the Prime Minister is important, it doesn’t imply that there can be a blanket ban on checking the chopper he is travelling in — especially during election time.
The Prime Minister is the head of the government, but during elections he is just like any other candidate. It is the Election Commission’s responsibility to ensure a level-playing field for all candidates. A blanket ban on checking the vehicle of the PM doesn’t sound fair at all. Equal treatment must be meted out to all by the poll body.
Moreover, suspension of the IAS officer responsible for checking the chopper of PM Narendra Modi seemed really harsh. No one is denying that the PM is an important entity and he is protected by the SPG. But, suspending the IAS officer just doesn’t seem appropriate at all. More than this being about the PM, the move doesn’t reflect well on the Election Commission. In fact, it shows them in very poor light because they cannot be mixing up security concerns and elections. Election is an entirely different game.
By Fatima Khan, journalist at ThePrint.
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