SC takes up PM security breach issue; to hear on Friday

Narendra Modi's security resulting in his motorcade getting stranded for 20 minutes on a flyover in Bathinda in Punjab and agreed to hear on Friday a PIL seeking a fair probe into the incident to fix accountability of Punjab government, top bureaucracy and police.

Senior advocate Maninder Singh sought urgent hearing on the PIL filed by and advocate's body 'Lawyers' Voice' alleging that the lapse in PM's security was a deliberate act on the part of the Punjab government and police and sought a direction to the Bathinda district judge to immediately take possession of all official records relating to the communications and arrangements for PM's travel by the designated route for a SC-monitored probe and identify those responsible for the lapses that compromised the PM's security.

Taking serious note, a bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli ordered the SC registry to list "this matter on Friday as first item before us. In the meantime, Senior counsel Maninder Singh is permitted to serve a copy of the said petition upon the state of Punjab immediately."

The PIL, filed on Thursday through advocate Sandep Singh, has sought suspension of Punjab chief secretary Anirudh Tewari and DGP Siddharth Chattopadhyay pending a detailed high-level inquiry into the incident so as to ensure a fair probe and fix accountability as also prevent recurrence of such incidents in future. It sought direction to the Union government to initiate departmental action against the chief secretary and the DGP.

The petitioner said, "Considering the prevalent situation in Punjab, which has national security implications, the highest standard of security arrangements for the PM was imperative. As per protocol, the car for the state Chief Secretary and DGP or their nominees are supposed to join the PM's motorcade. However, as per the reports, neither chief secretary, DGP nor their representative had joined the PM's motorcade."

Senior advocate Singh sought a direction from the SC to the Bathinda district judge "to collect all official documents and materials from all possible sources pertaining to the movements and deployment of Punjab Police in connection with the visit at the earliest and produce the same before the Supreme Court" and alleged that Punjab police appeared to be in cahoots with the demonstrators to block the PM's route.

The PIL said, "the lapse in the security of the PM was occasioned clearly in connivance with the Punjab Police. It was only the Punjab Government that knew the precise route of the PM which is never shared due to security reasons. It has been reported that this may have been the single biggest lapse in security of any Indian PM in recent years."

The lawyers' body said the overall responsibility for ensuring the safety of the PM, on a visit to a state, rested with the concerned state government while the proximate security is provided by the Special PRotection Group (SPG) personnel. "What was shocking and alarming at many levels was that the local police personnel on the spot were seen to be participating with the hooligans who jeopardized the security of the PM," it alleged.

"The incident could have had grave security implications for the personal safety of the PM," the PIL said and requested the SC to "take cognizance of the matter, ensure that the official records secured, not tampered with and presented before the apex court for initiation of proceedings against the erring officials and other persons responsible for breaching the security of the PM as a part of a premeditated, pre-planned conspiracy to put the national security in jeopardy."

The petitioner said it was shocking that an overwhelming section of the people blocking the route consisted of police personnel, making the complicity of the state authorities apparent. The security lapse, as reported by media, appeared intentional and raises a serious question about national security and the role played by the present political dispensation in Punjab, it added.

The PM was scheduled to visit Punjab on Wednesday to pay tribute at National Martyrs Memorial, Hussainiwala and attend other programmes including laying of foundation stone of various developmental projects in Punjab. After landing at Bathinda, and when the weather did not clear despite waiting for 30 minutes, it was decided that the PM would undertake a two-hour road journey to visit the National Martyrs Memorial. The said route was a part of the pre-decided contingency route discussed priorly with the state government. The PM's motorcade took the road route after confirmation of necessary security arrangements by the Punjab DGP, the PIL said.

Around 30 kilometers from the National Martyrs Memorial in Hussainiwala, when the PM’s convoy reached a flyover, it was found that the road was blocked, resulting in the convoy being stuck there for 15-20 minutes, which was a major lapse in the security of the PM, it said.

"Private persons were given access to the PM’s route, and other persons were instigated to join the blockade, which represents a serious and unpardonable breach of national security by the state apparatus and the political establishment of the State. It has been reported that while the state chief secretary and DGP gave assurances to the SPG that the route is clear, it was found that the same was not true resulting in a precarious situation," the PIL alleged.

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