Breach In PM’s Security: SC Questions Issuance Of Show Cause Notices To Punjab Officials

The apex court's observation came after the Punjab government pointed out the issuance of show causes notices to its officials, despite a stay put by the court on ongoing parallel inquiries into the lapses.

PM Narendra Modi’s convoy stopped midway on a bridge en route to

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday questioned the issuing of show cause notices to seven Punjab government officials ranging from the chief secretary to a senior superintendent of police for the breach in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s security during his visit to the state.

The apex court’s observation came after the Punjab government pointed out the issuance of show causes notices to its officials, despite a stay put by the court on ongoing parallel inquiries into the lapses.

The show cause notices were issued before the order of this court, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta replied to a bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana.

The bench, also comprising justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, said that when the parallel inquiries by the central and state committees were put on hold on January 7 by it, then how these notices have been issued.

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“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 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 enquiry by you at all,” the bench asked.

Besides the fact that these notices were issued prior to January 7, the law officer extensively referred to the ‘Blue Book’ regulations, relating to the Special Protection Group (SPG), the prime minister’s security and the role of the local police, and said that these notices are based on “admitted non-compliance of statutory schemes”.

Mehta referred in detail to the provisions of the ‘Blue Book’ for the prime minister’s security and said that several breaches of the scheme of the rules are established such as the prime minister’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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There was a complete failure of intelligence and violation of protocols, he said, adding that “it has to be continuously communicated that there is a clear road and if there’s a blockade, stop them four km away. Here the warning car of the state was travelling along with the cavalcade. There was complete intelligence failure”.

When there are clear violations of the SPG Act and the ‘Blue Book;, there is no room for detailed hearing and lengthy procedures, he said.

“The fact that the state is defending them (the officers) is very very serious,” Mehta submitted.

The travel of the prime minister was a scheduled one and a rehearsal was conducted by the state police as it was known that the travel could be undertaken by road also, he said.

The bench asked,”If you want to take disciplinary action against the state officers then what remains for this court to do.”

If it is felt by the bench that the show cause notices pre-empts the final outcome, then the inquiry proceedings against official may be and the central committee be allowed to examine the issue and submit a report.

Senior advocate D S Patwalia, the advocate general of Punjab, expressed lack of faith in central panel saying, “Please hang me and my officers if we are guilty but please do not condemn us unheard.”

The state’s law officer said an independent committee be set up as he apprehended that state officials will not get a fair hearing before the Centre’s panel.

The bench said it would set up a panel headed by its former judge to probe the security breach during the prime minister’s recent visit to Punjab and stayed the parallel inquiries by committees of the Centre and the state government into the lapses.

On January 5, the prime minister’s convoy was stranded on a flyover due to a blockade by protesters in Ferozepur after which he returned from poll-bound Punjab without attending any event, including a rally.