Former judge Indu Malhotra to probe PM security breach

Krishnadas Rajagopal | | Updated on: Jan 12, 2022
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Apex Court says ‘one-sided enquiries’ will not resolve issue, need a judicially trained and independent mind to go into it

The Supreme Court on Wednesday appointed a committee chaired by former judge, Justice Indu Malhotra, to inquire into the security breach which left the Prime Minister’s convoy stuck on a flyover in Punjab on January 5.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana requested the committee to submit its confidential report at the earliest.

The others on the committee are Director General of National Investigation Agency or his nominee, not below the rank of an Inspector General; Director General of Police of the Union Territory of Chandigarh, Additional Director General of Police (Security) of Punjab and the Registrar General of Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The constitution of this high-profile committee effectively arrests the functioning of the separate panels formed by Punjab and the Centre to investigate the breach. The court had earlier got the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s Registrar General seize the security records related to the incident.

Trading blame

Both the Centre and Punjab had blamed each other of bias. The development gains added significance as it comes ahead of the Assembly polls later this year. The State government accused the Centre of trying to pile the entire blame of the lapse on it. The Centre had summoned Punjab Police officials for an explanation.

“We are of the considered opinion that these questions cannot be left to be resolved through one-sided enquiries. 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 pursuant to our earlier order, would be best placed to effectively visit all issues and submit a comprehensive report for the consideration of this court,” the order said.

Terms of reference

The terms of reference of the Justice Indu Malhotra Committee include finding out the causes of the breach; the persons responsible and to what extent; remedial measures to improve the security of the Prime Minister and other protectees; and any other recommendations for the security of constitutional functionaries.

Punjab Advocate General DS Patwalia, in an earlier court hearing, had highlighted the State’s apprehensions it would not get a fair hearing. He had submitted that show cause notices had already been issued by the Centre to its officers, mentioning disciplinary action against them for the security lapse.

Patwalia had said that all the State wanted from the Supreme Court was an opportunity for a fair hearing before a neutral committee.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the Centre, had countered that there had been a “complete intelligence failure” on the part of the State. Besides, he had submitted, it was an admitted fact that there had been a security lapse in violation of the Special Protection Group Act and the ‘Blue Book’.

Published on January 12, 2022

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