Saturday, December 9, 2023

Retired Justice Indu Malhotra to head panel in PM security breach probe

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday set up a committee headed by a retired top court judge, Justice Indu Malhotra to probe into the security lapse during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Punjab visit on January 5. A bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli while setting up the independent Committee said such an issue of relating to breach of security of Prime Minister cannot be decided by “one-sided inquiry” of Centre or the State government and it has to be by a “judicially trained mind.” The other members of the Committee are the Director-General of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) or his nominee not below the rank of IG, DGP Union Territory of Chandigarh, ADGP of Punjab (Security) and Registrar General of Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The Bench said the Committee will inquire into causes of the security breach, persons responsible for the breach and the future measures to be taken for preventing such security breaches of VVIPs. The top court asked the Committee to submit a report at the earliest. It also asked the Registrar General of the High Court to submit all records and documents collected by him on orders of the apex court to the inquiry panel.

The five-member committee will inquire into the issue of breach of PM Mondi’s security and the Court stayed all existing inquiries into the matter. “We are of the considered opinion that this can’t be left to one-sided inquiries. A judicially trained independent mind assisted by officers, well acquainted with security considerations, and High Court Register Gener, who seized records on our orders, would inquire into the incident,” the Bench said.

The top court’s order came on a PIL seeking a judicial probe into the breach of the Prime Minister’s security while on a visit to Punjab. The apex court, earlier on Monday, while hearing a plea over the Prime Minister’s security lapse issue had decided to constitute an independent committee headed by a retired top court judge to investigate the matter.

The plea in the top court was filed by ‘Lawyers’ Voice’ alleging that PM’s security breach was a deliberate lapse on part of the State and sought the preservation of evidence on security arrangements and action against “erring” officials of the Punjab government. 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 the same before this court.

“Issue a writ of mandamus or any other writ, order or direction fixing responsibility of Respondent No. 2 (chief secretary) and Respondent No.3 (DGP) and place them under suspension and further direct the Respondent No. 4 (Centre) to initiate departmental action against the same,” it added.

The Prime Minister was stuck atop a flyover for 15-20 minutes while on his way to Ferozpur, Punjab earlier this month due to the road being blocked by some protesters. The Ministry of Home Affairs termed it as a “major lapse” in his security.

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