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'Blame game between Centre, state no solution': SC on PM's security breach in Punjab

PUNJAB NEWSLINE | January 13, 2022 05:22 AM

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said any lapse regarding the breach in security of Prime Minister Narendra Modi could have led to "devastating and serious consequences", and made it crystal clear that one-sided enquiries, either by state government or Centre, will not be sufficient to resolve questions associated with security considerations.

A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli constituted an enquiry committee headed by former top court judge Justice Indu Malhotra to probe the PM's security breach in Punjab on January 5.

"A judicially trained independent mind, duly assisted by officers who are well acquainted with the security considerations and the Registrar General of the High Court who has seized the record pursuant to our earlier order, would be best placed to effectively visit all issues and submit a comprehensive report for the consideration of this Court," it said.

"The additional object is to avoid any human error, negligence or any wilful omission or commission which may hamper and/or expose the safety and security of the executive head of the nation while he is travelling in a particular state. Any lapse in this regard can lead to devastating and serious consequences," the court added.

Deprecating the blame game between the state government and the Centre, for pinning the responsibility of the lapse in PM's security, the court said: "War of words between them is no solution. It may rather impair the need of a robust mechanism to respond at such a critical juncture."

Advocate General D.S. Patwalia, representing the Punjab government, had submitted that the Ministry of Home Affairs, in a way, already held the officers of Punjab government 'guilty' of the alleged negligence and/or breach of security of the PM. He maintained that none of the agencies of the state government had committed a dereliction of their responsibility for the security and safety of the PM, yet there is a smear campaign to discredit the government.

The Punjab government had constituted a committee - comprising a former judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and Principal Secretary, Home Affairs and Justice -- to carry out a thorough probe into the lapses that occurred during the Firozpur visit of the PM.

Senior advocate Maninder Singh, representing the petitioner Lawyers Voice NGO, however, said the constitution of an enquiry committee by the state government was nothing but an abortive attempt to become a judge in its own cause.

The top court studied the provisions of the Special Protection Group Act, 1988, along with the relevant contents of the 'Blue Book'. It said: "The Blue Book contains an unambiguous and detailed procedure to be observed by the State Authorities and the Special Protection Group to ensure full safety and security of the Prime Minister while he is touring a state."

The bench said it finds merit in Singh's that not only are the officer(s)/authority responsible for the above stated lapse liable to be identified, but there is also a greater urgency to evolve new measures that may ensure there is no recurrence of such lapses in the future.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, supported Singh's submission and prayed for a detailed independent inquiry.

The other members on the court-appointed committee are Director General, or his nominee not below the rank of Inspector General of Police, of the National Investigation Agency, Director General of Police, Union Territory of Chandigarh, Additional Director General of Police, Security, Punjab, and the Registrar General, Punjab and Haryana High Court as member-cum-coordinator.

 
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