The Supreme Court on Wednesday appointed a five-member committee headed by former apex court judge Justice Indu Malhotra to probe the security breach during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Punjab.
The “questions cannot be left to one-sided enquiry” and a judicially trained mind needs to oversee the probe, a bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana said while appointing the Justice Malhotra panel.
The bench also appointed the Inspector General of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Director General of Police of Chandigarh, the Registrar General of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the Additional DGP (Security) of Punjab as members to the panel.
The apex court directed the Registrar General of the Punjab and Haryana High Court to provide all the seized documents pertaining to the security arrangements made by the Punjab government for the Prime Minister’s January 5 visit immediately to the panel head.
The bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli said the panel will submit its report “at the earliest”.
It said the points of reference of the apex court-appointed panel will be to inquire as to who all are responsible for the security breach and to what extent, the remedial measures are necessary.
The panel will give suggestions on the security of constitutional functionaries ensuring that such incidents do not take place in future.
On January 5, Modi’s convoy was stranded on a flyover due to a blockade by protesters in Ferozepur after which he returned from Punjab without attending any event, including a rally. While reserving the order in the matter on January 10, the apex court had said it would set up a panel headed by its former judge to probe the security breach. It had also stayed the parallel inquiries by committees of the Centre and the state.
The top court’s order has come on the plea of an organisation, Lawyers Voice, seeking a thorough investigation into the breach in Modi’s security in Punjab to ensure there is no such incident in the future.
It had taken 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.” The Centre had justified the issuance of show-cause notices, saying they were based on “admitted non-compliance of statutory schemes” on the role of state police with regard to providing security to the Prime Minister.
The petition filed by Bijan Kumar Singh, vice president, Lawyer’s Voice, termed the incident as a “premeditated conspiracy to breach the security of the prime minister and bring national security in jeopardy”.
“Take cognizance of the serious and deliberate lapse on part of the Respondent No 1, 2 and 3 (state government, chief secretary and DGP) concerning the security and the movement of the prime minister of the country,” said the plea filed through lawyer Sandeep Singh.
It also sought direction from the district judge, Bhatinda, 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 them before the top court.
Further, it sought direction from the Union Home Ministry to initiate departmental action against the state’s Chief Secretary and the Director-General of Police.
“Issue a writ…or direction fixing responsibility of the Respondent No 2 and Respondent No 3 (Chief Secretary and DGP) and place them under suspension..,” it said.
“The petitioner is seeking urgent intervention… raising an imminent and issues of national importance impinging upon the national security and for protection of the fundamental right to move across the country and liberty of citizens in the country,” it said.
The plea urged the court to take cognizance of the matter and ensure that the official records are not tampered with and presented before it at the earliest.
“The petitioner… is seeking to highlight the said incident and raise an important question as if the Prime Minister of the country can face such a situation, then the fundamental rights of citizens which have been guaranteed …are in serious jeopardy in Punjab and beyond,” it said.
It is shocking that an overwhelming section of the blockage of the road was consisting of the police personnel on the spot which made “the complicity of the State authorities apparent”, the plea alleged.
“The security lapse, as per reliable reports in the print and the electronic media, and as per the Press Information Bureau report of the Central Government, was clearly intentional and raises a serious question as to national security and the role played by the present political dispensation in Punjab,” it said.
As per protocol, the car for the Chief Secretary and DGP or their nominees of the visiting state is earmarked and supposed to join the motorcade and however, as per the reports, neither the two officials nor their representatives joined the motorcade, it alleged.
“It has been reported that the said road route was a part of the pre-decided contingency route which had been previously discussed and settled with the State Government in great detail. Thereafter, the Prime Minister proceeded to travel by road after necessary confirmation of necessary security arrangements by the DGP (director general of police) Punjab Police,” it said.
It is clear from the events that private persons were given access to the Prime Minister’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 said.