Withdrawal/Downgrading of VIP security cover: Punjab and Haryana High Court directs State to make fresh assessment of security threats; Provide one security personnel until then

Punjab and Haryana High Court

   

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Raj Mohan Singh, J., while disposing of the bunch of writ petitions challenging the orders of withdrawal, pruning, downgrading and de- categorization of the security of the 184 ex- Ministers and former MLAs passed by the State held that the competent authority should make fresh assessment in respect of security threats of petitioners after considering the available inputs from different State and Central agencies.

Facts:

The petitioners were granted ‘Z' security by the Government under political dispensation. Later, under the new political dispensation the same was withdrawn on a pick and choose basis without assessing the threat perception.

A State Security Review Committee (‘SSRC') was made, and the cases of the petitioners were considered. The security covers of some of the petitioners were withdrawn partially and for some completely. The review was not leaked to protect the petitioner from the anti-social elements of society and because it is a privileged document as secrecy is involved in respect of members of protection review groups and security review committee.

Arguments:

The counsels for the petitioners argued that the action of withdrawal and de- categorization of their security cover is against the principles of natural justice and is in utter disregard to the policy of the State and without conducting fresh assessment after affording due opportunity of hearing to the petitioners.

Observation and Analysis:

The Court said “Security issue is not a static phenomenon, rather it is a dynamic process. The security reviews have to be done on a periodical basis by assessing the security threat of the protectees with the passage of time on the basis of official inputs provided by the different agencies including State and Central agencies”.

The Court observed that the Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs has issued the ‘Yellow Book' which pertains to the security arrangements for protection of individuals and the same is codified categorization of protectees.

The Court observed that a person is entitled to get security as per the Government Order/ policy if he comes within the parameters based upon the real threat perception.

The Court also observed that the threat perception has to be real, based on intelligence reports from different agencies. The demand of security cannot be on the basis of displaying an authority of symbol or to flaunt the status as a very important person. No privileged class can be created at the State’s expense by using money of taxpayers. Personal security cover cannot be claimed as a matter of right and in perpetuity.

The Court cited Ramveer Upadhyay v. R.M. Srivastava, (2015) 13 SCC 370, where the Supreme Court observed that “we have hardly seen any security of ‘Z’ or ‘Y’ category provided to any ordinary citizen howsoever, grave the threat perception or imminent danger may be to the person concerned. The petitioner, however, has claimed it obviously as a ‘privileged class’ by virtue of being an ex-minister which at times, may be justified even to an ex-minister or any other dignitary, considering the nature and function of the duties which he had discharged, which could facilitate the assessment of his threat perception even after laying down the office. But what exactly is his threat perception and whether the same is grave in nature, obviously will have to be left to be decided by the authorities including the authorities of the State or the Centre which may include even the Intelligence Bureau or any other authority concerned which is entitled to assess the threat perception of an individual. But in so far as the Court of law is concerned, it would obviously be in a predicament to come to any conclusion as to whether the threat perception alleged by a person claiming security is grave or otherwise which would hold him entitled to the security of a greater degree, since this is clearly a question of factual nature to be dealt with by the authorities entrusted with the duty to provide security after assessing the need and genuineness of the threat to any individual.”

The Court said that security is a State subject and the competent authority must evaluate the threat faced by the petitioners based on inputs provided by the State/ Central agencies.

The Court also noted that after withdrawal of security cover, the petitioners may suffer at the hands of his enemies promptly or with the passage of time.

The Court suggested that the competent authority should make fresh assessment in respect of security threats of petitioners after considering the available inputs from different agencies, State and Central. The Court also directed that the competent authorities, while making fresh assessment, should consider the inputs provided by the petitioners by giving them adequate notice.

Further, the Court also held that the petitioners who have not been provided any protection, will be provided with one security personnel until the State makes the fresh assessment.

[Om Prakash Soni v. State of Punjab, CWP No. 11872 of 2022, decided on 22-08-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

For the Petitioners: Ms. Madhu Dayal, Advocate Mr. Lalit Singla, Advocate with Ms. Varsha Sharma, Advocate Mr. Ranbir Singh Sekhon, Advocate Mr. Deepak Sabherwal, Advocate Mr. Ajay Pal Singh Jangu, Advocate Mr. Karanjit Singh, Advocate Mr. Jasraj Singh, Advocate Mr. C.M. Munjal, Advocate Mr. Vivek K. Thakur, Advocate Mr. Himmat Singh Sidhu, Advocate Mr. Gagan Pradeep S. Bal, Advocate Mr. Suvir Sidhu, Advocate with Mr. Arun Kumar, Advocate Mr. Prateek Sodhi, Advocate with Mr. Manoj Singla, Advocate Mr. Deep Indu Singh Walia, Advocate Mr. Krishan Kanha, Advocate Mr. Naresh Kumar, Advocate Mr. Sahil Gambhir, Advocate for Mr. Kanwalvir Singh Kang, Advocate Mr. Gurpartap Singh Bhullar, Advocate Mr. Amardeep Singh Mann, Advocate and Mr. Sahil Gambhir, Advocate Mr. Naveen Bawa, Advocate Mr. Rakesh Nehra, Sr. Advocate with Mr. Judgpreet Singh Warring, Advocate Ms. Anupam Bhanot, Advocate Mr. R.S. Bains, Sr. Advocate with Mr. Navraj Singh, Advocate and Mr. Vishesh Chandhok, Advocate Mr. Bhupinder Singh Randhawa, Advocate Mr. Kamal Deep Singh Sidhu, Advocate Mr. Piyush Sharma, Advocate, Mr. Parvinder Singh, Advocate Mr. Sumeet Puri, Advocate for Mr. G.S. Ghuman, Advocate Mr. Harpal Singh Sidhu, Advocate Mr. Tarun Sharma, Advocate for Mr. R.S. Bajaj, Advocate Mr. Ashwani Kumar Antil, Advocate Mr. R.S. Manhas, Advocate Mr. Naresh Singh, Advocate Mr. Premjit Singh Hundal, Advocate.

For the Respondent: Mr. Satya Pal Jain, Additional Solicitor General of India

Ms. Saigeeta Srivastava Sr. Panel counsel for the Union of India

Mr. Vinod Ghai, Advocate General, Punjab

Mr. Gaurav Garg Dhuriwala, Sr. D.A.G., Punjab

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