Monday 27 June 2022
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Retired judge to probe lapse in security of PM in Punjab

The committee comprises, other than the retired judge, the Chandigarh Police chief, the IG of NIA, Punjab and Haryana HC registrar-general and the Punjab ADGP

On 10 January, the Supreme Court ordered the institution of a high-level committee headed by a retired judge of the top court to probe the security lapse during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Punjab last week. A three-judge bench led by CJI NV Ramana ordered the inquiry committees of the union government and the Punjab Government to halt their respective probe into the January 5 security lapse.

“We are taking the prime minister’s security breach very seriously,” said the bench, which also included Justice Surya Kant and Justice Hima Kohli.

The committee led by a retired judge of the Supreme Court will include the Chandigarh Police chief, the IG of the National Investigation Agency, Punjab and Haryana High Court registrar-general and the Punjab ADGP (Security), the top court said, adding that a detailed order would be released later.

The committee will submit its report to the apex court at the earliest, it said. Once the committee submits its report, the Supreme Court will pass orders for action to be taken by the union and Punjab governments. The order followed the Punjab government’s of an independent probe into the breach in the prime minister’s security, saying the state would not get a fair hearing in any probe carried out by the union government.

Just before the crucial hearing, many advocates-on-record (through whom cases are filed in the Supreme Court) allegedly received calls from an anonymous number from the UK taking responsibility for the security breach at Hussainiwala flyover.

The Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA) has written to the Supreme Court Secretary-General (with a copy to Delhi Police Chief), demanding immediate action against those responsible for it.

According to the SCAORA letter, the caller also threatened the Supreme Court judges, asking them to refrain from hearing the PIL as “the court had not been able to punish the culprits of the 1984 anti- riots”.

During the hearing on a petition filed by an NGO, Lawyer’s Voice, seeking a probe into the security lapse, Punjab Advocate General DS Patwalia took strong exception to the seven show-cause notices issued to the SSP concerned, Chief Secretary and senior officials of the state, asking them to explain why action should not be taken against them. The petitioners wanted the court to fix the responsibility of the Punjab Chief Secretary and the state’s DGP, place them under suspension and direct the Centre to initiate departmental action against them.

Your show-cause notice is self-contradictory. By constituting the committee, you seek to inquire if there is a breach of the SPG Act and then you hold state Chief Secretary and DGP guilty…. Who held them guilty?

— CJI-led bench of the Supreme Court

Alleging that “there is some politics behind it”, Patwalia said, “I will not get a fair hearing from the union government. Please appoint an independent committee, and give us a fair hearing….”

Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta clarified that the show-cause notices were issued before the court’s order. “If you have already made up your mind then what’s the need for having an inquiry…. There’s a lapse and it has to be found out who is responsible for it,” the bench said.

“Your show-cause notice is totally self-contradictory. By constituting the committee, you seek to inquire if there is a breach of the SPG Act and then you hold the state Chief Secretary and the DGP guilty. Who held them guilty?” it wondered. The solicitor-general said these were only show-cause notices and not findings. Noting that it was an issue of the security of the prime minister, Mehta said it could be examined by senior officials of the central government. The report could be placed before the Bench and then “Your Lordships can take an appropriate decision,” Mehta said.

Patwalia objected to it and reiterated his for an independent probe. Finally, the top court ordered setting up a committee headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court.

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