Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: After Enquiry Committee headed by Justice Indu Malhotra, former Judge of the Supreme Court of India, had submitted the report on the alleged breach of security that left Prime Minister Narendra Modi stuck on a highway in Punjab for 20 minutes on 05.01 2022, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ and Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, JJ has sent the report to the Central and State Government for appropriate action against delinquent officers.

According to a news report, the Enquiry Committee has found that Ferozpur SSP Harmandeep Singh Hans had failed in executing his duty of ensuring the prime minister’s security despite having the necessary information around two hours in advance[1].

On 12.01.2022, in Lawyers Voice v. State of Punjab, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 42, the Court had observed that the matter cannot be left to be resolved through one-sided enquiries and a judicially trained independent mind, duly assisted by officers who are well acquainted  with the security considerations and the Registrar General of the High Court who has seized the record,   would be best placed to effectively visit all issues and submit a comprehensive report. The Court, hence, formed a committee to be chaired by Justice Indu Malhotra, former Supreme Court Judges.

PM Modi Security Lapse: “War of words no solution”; SC appoints Committee headed by Justice Indu Malhotra to look into the matter 

While the lapse regarding the breach of security of the Prime Minister during his visit to Firozpur on 5th January, 2022 was not seriously disputed by either party, the Court, however, had not appreciated the blame game between the State and Central Government as to who is responsible for such lapses.

“War of words between them is no solution. It may rather impair the need of a robust mechanism to respond at such a critical juncture.”

[Lawyers’ Voice v. State of Punjab, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1096, order dated 25.08.2022]


For Petitioner(s): Mr. Maninder Singh, Sr.Adv. Mr. Pranav Saigal, Adv. Mr. Prabhas Bajaj, Adv. Mr. Sandeep Singh, AOR

For Respondent(s): Mr. Tushar Mehta, SG Mr. K.M. Nataraj, ASG Mr. Rajat Nair, Adv. Mr. Kanu Agrawal, Adv. Ms. Jaspreet Gogia, AOR Mr. Ajay Pal, Adv. Mr. Varinder Kumar Sharma, AOR Mr. Parul Sharma, Adv. Mr. Shantanu Sharma, Adv. Mr. Yugal Kishore Prasad, Adv.

[1] Firstpost, SC panel report: PM Modi’s security breach in Punjab was callousness of the highest order by Monica Verma, dated August 25, 2022

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: After a massive security lapse that left Prime Minister Narendra Modi stuck on a highway in Punjab for 20 minutes on January 5, 2022, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ and Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, JJ has observed that the matter cannot be left to be resolved through one¬sided enquiries and a judicially trained independent mind, duly assisted by officers who are well acquainted   with the security considerations and the Registrar General of the High Court who has seized the record,   would be best placed to effectively visit all issues and submit a comprehensive report. The Court, hence, formed a committee to be chaired by Justice Indu Malhotra, former Supreme Court Judges.

The Enquiry Committee

Members

  1. Justice Indu Malhotra, former Supreme Court Judges – Chairperson
  2. Director General or his nominee not below the rank of Inspector General of Police of National Investigation Agency;
  3. Director General of Police, Union Territory of Chandigarh
  4. Additional Director General of Police (Security), State of Punjab
  5. Registrar General, Punjab and Haryana High Court

Terms of Reference for the Enquiry Committee

  • What were the causes for the security breach for the incident on 5th January 2022?
  • Who are responsible for such a breach, and to what extent?
  • What should be the remedial measures or safeguards necessary for the security of the Hon’ble Prime Minister or other Protectees?
  • Any suggestions or recommendations for improving the safety and   security   of   other   Constitutional functionaries.
  • Any other incidental issue that the Committee may deem fit and proper.

Other Directions

The entire record seized pursuant to order dated 7th January, 2022, be handed over to the Chairperson of the Enquiry Committee within three days.

The Union of India and State Government are directed to provide full assistance to the Enquiry Committee for completion of the assigned task.

The Chairperson of the Enquiry Committee shall be entitled to all the perks of a sitting Supreme Court Judge minus pension. They shall be provided full secretarial assistance, official car and other paraphernalia for effective completion of the enquiry, as directed above.

Till conclusion of the proceedings of the Enquiry Committee, the enquiries ordered by the Central Government and the State Government shall be kept in abeyance.

What has happened in the case so far?

On January 7, 2022, the Court had directed the Registrar General, Punjab and Haryana High Court to secure and preserve the records relating to Prime Minister’s scheduled tour of Punjab on 05th January 2022.

The State of Punjab had constituted a Committee to carry out a thorough probe. This Committee comprised of a Former Judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and Principal Secretary, Home Affairs and Justice, Government of Punjab. The petitioner has however urged that since lapses in the breach of security of the Prime Minister are being seriously attributed to the authorities of the State of Punjab, the constitution of an Enquiry Committee by the State was nothing but an abortive attempt to become a Judge in its own cause.

The Advocate General for the State of Punjab, on the other hand, urged that the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India has, in a way, already held the officers of Government of Punjab  ‘guilty’  of the alleged negligence and/or breach of security of the Prime Minister. He submitted that none of the agencies of the State Government had committed a dereliction of their responsibility for the security and safety of the Hon’ble Prime Minister, yet there is a smear campaign to discredit the State   Government.

Supreme Court’s Observations

While the lapse regarding the breach of security of the Prime Minister during his visit to Firozpur on 5th January, 2022 is not seriously disputed by either party, the Court, however, did not appreciate the blame game between the State and Central Government as to who is responsible for such lapses.

“War of words between them is no solution. It may rather impair the need of a robust mechanism to respond at such a critical juncture.”

Going through the legislative scheme of the Special Protection Group Act, 1988 as well as the Blue Book the Court observed that the object is to ensure full safety and security of the Prime Minister while he is touring a State. The additional object is to avoid any human error, negligence or any willful omission or commission which may hamper and/or expose the safety and security of the Executive Head of the nation while he is traveling in a particular State. Any lapse in this regard can lead to devastating and serious consequences.

The Court has, hence, asked the Enquiry Committee to submit its report at the earliest.

[Lawyers Voice v. State of Punjab, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 42, order dated 12.01.2022]

 

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: Justice Indu Malhotra has recused herself from hearing a batch of appeals and cross-appeals challenging a Bombay High Court verdict which held that mere possession of beef of animals slaughtered outside the State cannot invite criminal action.  A bench headed by Justice A M Sapre said that Justice Malhotra was recusing herself from the hearing as she had earlier appeared as a lawyer in the case.

The Supreme Court, on August 17, 2016, had sought the response of the Maharashtra government on the plea of ‘Akhil Bharat Krishi Goseva Sangh’ against the high court order. Later, as many as 33 petitions were filed in the Supreme Court by different individuals and organisations.

The High Court, on May 6, 2016, had said that the provisions of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, which criminalised possession of beef, was an infringement on the right to privacy of citizens and unconstitutional. It had also upheld the ban on slaughter of bulls and bullocks in Maharashtra while striking down two sections of the state act which criminalised possession of beef.

Striking down sections 5(d) and 9(b) of the act which criminalised and imposed punishment for possession of beef of animals slaughtered in the state or outside, the high court had held that the state cannot control what a citizen does in his house, which is his own castle, provided he is not doing something contrary to the law.

“Sections 5(d) which provides that no person shall have in his possession flesh of cow, bull or bullock slaughtered outside Maharashtra is unconstitutional and infringes upon a citizen’s right to privacy,”

The court had also modified section 5(c) of the act, which makes possession of beef of animal slaughtered in the state an offence, and had said only “conscious possession” of such meat will be held as an offence.

In February 2015, the president had granted sanction to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act. While the act had banned slaughter of cows way back in 1976, the recent amendments prohibited slaughter of bulls and bullocks, possession and consumption of their meat. As per the act, slaughter attracts a five-year jail term and Rs 10,000 fine and possession of meat of bull or bullock attracts one-year jail and Rs 2,000 fine.

(Source: PTI)