With Centre & Punjab bickering, Supreme Court to set up a panel headed by ex-judge to probe breach in PM’s security

Please hang me and my officers if we are guilty but please do not condemn us unheard: Punjab AG

Please hang me and my officers if we are guilty but please do not condemn us unheard: Punjab AG
Please hang me and my officers if we are guilty but please do not condemn us unheard: Punjab AG

PM’s security breach: Former judge to probe security breach

With Centre and Punjab fighting with counterarguments, the Supreme Court on Monday said it would set up a panel headed by its former judge to probe the security breach during Prime Minister Narendra Modi and stayed the parallel inquiries by committees of the Centre and the State government into the lapses. “We are thinking on these lines…One retired Supreme Court judge will head the committee and the members would be DGP (Director General of Police) of Chandigarh, the Inspector General of the NIA (National Investigation Agency), the Registrar General of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, and one more person from Punjab…And he can be Additional DGP (Security),” Chief Justice of India N V Ramana observed, hinting at the broad parameters of the proposed order which will be passed later.

Stressing that the apex court was not “undermining the importance of the security of the Prime Minister” and dealing it with “all seriousness”, a bench headed by CJI said that the separate inquiries by panels set by the Centre and the State government will be stayed. The bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, took note of the submissions of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta about the time frame within which the court-appointed panel should give the report and said it will keep this aspect in mind.

The top court was hearing the plea of an organization, Lawyers Voice represented by senior lawyer Manider Singh, seeking a thorough investigation into the breach in Modi’s security in Punjab to ensure there is no such incident in the future. Maninder Singh was the Additional Solicitor General of Central government from 2014 to 2019. The Central government supported his arguments. SC also took note of the concerns of the Punjab government that its officials are being condemned by the Central government panel without any proceedings and ordered, “All inquiries should stop.”

At the outset, Advocate General and senior advocate D S Patwalia, appearing for the Punjab Government, said: “I don’t think that I will get a fair hearing because there is some politics behind it also. My fear has come true as seven show-cause notices have been sent to the state officials ranging tom the chief secretary to the SSP by the Central government’s committee saying you are guilty…”

“Please hang me and my officers if we are guilty but please do not condemn us unheard,” the state’s law officer said, adding that an independent committee is set up as he apprehended that the state officials will not get a fair hearing before the Centre’s panel. The committee’s inquiries were put on hold, where have these show cause notices come from, said Patwalia expressed displeasure on Union Home Ministry sending notices to State officials after the Supreme Court’s intervention.

The bench referred to the State government officials being issued show-cause notices despite the panels being asked to hold their hands till January 10 and asked what purpose would remain for the court to intervene. “Your show cause notice is totally self-contradictory. By constituting a committee you seek to enquire if there was a breach and then you hold the state Chief Secretary and the DGP guilty. Who held them guilty…The state and the petitioner want a fair hearing and you cannot be against a fair hearing. So why this administrative and fact-finding inquiry by you at all,” the bench asked.
The show-cause notices were issued before the order of the court, the Solicitor General replied, adding that the Central government’s panel may be allowed to inquire into the lapses, and a report would be submitted to the bench. “Asking them to reply within 24 hours, after our order…It is not expected of you,” the bench said. “To say ‘it is not expected of you is a bit harsh under the circumstances”, Mehta said, adding that the Prime Minister’s security is of paramount importance.

“We are not undermining the importance of the security of the Prime Minister…We are taking up the matter with all seriousness. Please do not be under the impression that we are not giving the importance,” the bench said. There is a breach and the State has admitted it, but the other issues are questions of facts and they have to be seen by independent persons, the bench said. “If you want to take disciplinary action against the state officers then what remains for this court to do,” the bench asked.

If the Court felt that the show-cause notices pre-empted the final outcome, then inquiry proceedings may be put on hold till the Central committee inquires and give the report to the bench, Mehta said. He referred in detail to the provisions of the “Blue Book” for PM’s security and said that several breaches of the scheme of the rules are established such as the PM’s convoy had proceeded on the road after taking clearance from the DGP and moreover, the warning vehicle did not warn about the blockade.

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