PM’s security breach: Centre issues show cause notice, records to be preserved

Two days after the security lapse during Prime Minister Narendra Modis visit to Punjab, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday issued a show cause notice to the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) of Bathinda, saying that the police at the protest site was found to be inactive.

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister’s rally in Ferozepur had to be cancelled due to a security lapse after some protesters blocked a route and forced Modi’s convoy to spend about 15-20 minutes on a flyover. The Prime Minister was enroute the National Martyrs Memorial at Hussainiwala when the incident happened.

In the notice issued by the MHA, Archana Varma, Deputy Secretary to the Centre, said, “Since there was grave security lapse during PM Modi’s visit, the Bathinda SSP has been directed to ‘show-cause’ as to why action should not be initiated against him under the law, including disciplinary action under All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969, the acts of omission and commission.”

The letter added, “As provided in Section 14 of the Special Protection Group (SPG), 1988, the state government and every civil authority is legally obligated to provide all assistance to the SPG and, therefore, you as SSP Bathinda were obligated to make adequate security arrangements, but the available information so far indicates that police at the protest site was found to be inactive, senior police officers present at the site were also found to be ineffective in making efforts to facilitate the movement of the carcade of the VVIP. Throughout the route, only skeletal police deployment was observed.”

Meanwhile, an MHA team investigating the breach of security reached the spot on Friday to find out the reasons that led to the Prime Minister’s cavalcade remaining stranded on the flyover for 15-20 minutes.

As per the MHA statement, around 30 km away from the National Martyrs Memorial in Hussainiwala near Ferozepur, when the PM’s convoy reached a flyover, it was found that the road was blocked by some protesters. The Prime Minister was stuck on the flyover for 15-20 minutes. This was a major lapse in the security of the Prime Minister.

Punjab Chief Secretary Anirudh Tewari, in a report submitted to the Centre, said that an FIR has been lodged in the incident and the state government has formed a two-member panel to probe the lapses.

Tewari is learnt to have shared the details pertaining to the sequence of events that unfolded on Wednesday, official sources said.

Earlier: SC Directs Punjab HC Registrar General To Preserve All Records

The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Registrar General of Punjab and Haryana High Court to secure and preserve all the records in connection with the Prime Minister’s visit to Punjab, and also asked the state and Central committees to refrain from conducting inquiries till Monday, when it will take up the matter again.

A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli said: “We deem it appropriate for the time being to direct the Registrar General, Punjab and Haryana High Court to secure and preserve the records relating to the Prime Minister’s scheduled tour of Punjab on January 5, 2022”.

“We direct the Director General of Police, Union Territory of Chandigarh and an officer of the National Investigation Agency, not below the rank of Inspector General, to be nominated by the Director General, National Investigation Agency, to assist the Registrar General, Punjab and Haryana High Court to forthwith secure and seize the records from the State police as well as Central agencies.”

The top court also asked the state and Central committees to refrain from conducting inquiries till Monday.

It also directed the Punjab government, including the police authorities, the Special Protection Group and any other central/state agencies to cooperate and to provide necessary assistance in securing and seizing the records.

During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, submitted that some NIA officer should assist the court’s officer in collecting and securing the evidence, which includes wireless messages in connection with PM’s movement in the state. He claimed that the court officer may find it difficult to pin down on sources, from which information is required.

Mehta termed the incident “rarest of the rare issue” and also potential cross border terrorism.

Senior advocate Maninder Singh, representing the Delhi-based petitioner Lawyer’s Voice, emphasised on the importance of protection to the PM of the country and cited previous top court ruling that looked at the SPG Act.

Singh contended the incident happened in an election-bound state and it must be ensured that such incidents don’t happen again. He added that the Punjab government has no exclusive right to appoint a panel to inquire into this incident.

Referring to a former high court judge, who has been appointed as the chairman of the state probe panel, Singh cited a 2014 Supreme Court ruling recording adverse remarks against the judge in connection to an investigation in a recruitment scam. He urged the top court to restrain the state panel from proceeding in the matter and sought for a district judge to collect all evidence with assistance of NIA and sought an independent probe into the matter.

Mehta appeared before the top court in support of this petition.

The top court said: “We direct the Registrar General, Punjab and Haryana High Court to keep the records in his safe custody for the time being.”

The plea sought an independent probe into the PM’s security breach in Punjab. It sought a direction to the District Judge Bathinda to collect, preserve and present all material pertaining to the movement and deployment of Punjab Police in connection with the visit of the Prime Minister, and fix responsibility of the DGP and the Chief Secretary, Punjab.

Posting the matter for further hearing on January 10, the top court said: “The Registry is directed to forward a copy of this order electronically, forthwith, to the Registrar General, Punjab and Haryana High Court, the Director General of Police, Union Territory of Chandigarh, the Director General, National Investigation Agency and the Principal Secretary Home, State of Punjab.”

On January 6, the Ministry of Home Affairs constituted a three-member committee to enquire into the “serious lapses in the security arrangements” during the PM’s visit to Ferozepur, in poll-bound Punjab. The MHA said: “The committee will be led by Sudhir Kumar Saxena, Secretary (Security), Cabinet Secretariat, and comprising of Balbir Singh, Joint Director, IB, and S Suresh, IG, SPG.”

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