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Lawyers Voice Versus The State Of Punjab & Others

The   present   Writ   Petition   arises   out   of   the   incident   dated 5.01.2022   wherein   on   a   visit   to   Hussainiwala,   District Firozpur, State of Punjab the convoy of the Prime Minister was stuck on a flyover for around 20 minutes. 

Petitioner, an NGO which purports to work for advocates across the country and takes up causes that are in public interest, therefore, seeks that this Court take cognizance of the above incident and has prayed for the following directions: “(a) Take   cognizance   of   the   serious   and   deliberate lapse   on   part   of   the   Respondent   Nos.   1,2   and   3 concerning the security and the movement of the Prime Minister of the country; and 1 (b) Direct   the   learned   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 Hon’ble Court; and  (c) Issue a writ of mandamus or any other writ, order or   direction   fixing   responsibility   of   the   Respondent No. 2 and Respondent No. 3 and place them under suspension and further direct the Respondent No. 4 to initiate departmental action against the same; (d) Please to issue any other writ or directions(s) or orders(s) as the Hon’ble Court may deem fit and proper in view of the facts and circumstances of the case and in the interest of justice.” 

Petitioner  contends that the incident constitutes a very grave security breach that could have had significant repercussions as it impacts the safety of the Hon’ble Prime Minister.  

Given the seriousness of the subject matter, and the need to ensure a thorough investigation into the alleged lapses by the security apparatus, we took up the matter on the 07th January, 2022 when we heard Mr. Maninder Singh, Senior Advocate on behalf of the petitioner and Mr. Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor 2 General on behalf of Union of India and Mr. D.S. Patwalia, learned Advocate General for the State of Punjab.  This Court, thus, passed the following order: “1. Heard learned senior counsel Mr. Maninder Singh on   behalf   of   the   Petitioner,   the   learned   Solicitor General, Mr. Tushar Mehta, and the learned Advocate General for the State of Punjab, Mr. D.S. Patwalia. 2. Taking into consideration the arguments advanced by the parties with respect to the issues relating to the security   of   WP(C)No.13/2022   the   Hon’ble   Prime Minister and other related issues raised by them, we deem it appropriate for the time being to direct the Registrar General, Punjab and Haryana High Court to secure and preserve the records relating to the Hon’ble Prime   Minister’s   scheduled   tour   of   Punjab   on   05th January 2022. 

We   direct   the   Director   General   of   Police,   Union Territory of Chandigarh and an officer of the National Investigation Agency, not below the rank of Inspector General,   to   be   nominated   by   the   Director   General, National Investigation Agency to assist the Registrar General, Punjab and Haryana High Court to forthwith 3 secure and seize the records from the State police as well as Central agencies. 4. We further direct the State Government of Punjab, including the police authorities, the Special Protection Group   and   any   other   Central/State   agencies   to cooperate   and   to   provide   necessary   assistance   in securing and seizing the records. 

We   direct   the   Registrar   General,   Punjab   and Haryana High Court to keep the records in his safe custody for the time being. 6. The Registry is directed to forward a copy of this order   electronically,   forthwith,   to   the   Registrar General, Punjab and Haryana High Court, the Director General of Police, Union Territory of Chandigarh, the Director General, National Investigation Agency and the Principal Secretary, Home, State of Punjab. XXXXXX XXX” 

In deference to the above stated order, a compliance report has been submitted wherein it has been stated that the relevant records have been received, seized, and  secured. The same have been sealed and placed in the custody of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.  4 

On the previous date of hearing, it was also brought to our notice that the State of Punjab has constituted a Committee to carry   out   a   thorough   probe   into   the   lapses   that   occurred during the Firozpur visit of the Hon’ble Prime Minister. The Committee comprised of a Former Judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and Principal Secretary, Home Affairs and Justice,   Government   of   Punjab.   It   was   urged   on   behalf   of learned Senior Counsel for the petitioner that since lapses in the breach of security of the Hon’ble 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 State of Punjab, on the other hand, has placed on record copies of the show cause notices issued by the Government of India,   Ministry   of   Home   Affairs, Internal   Security  Division dated January 06, 2022 to various functionaries of the State of Punjab including its Chief Secretary and Director General of Police. The show cause notices required the officers to respond within 24 hours as to why disciplinary action under the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969 should not 5 be   initiated   against   them   for   their   “omissions   and commissions”.

The learned Advocate General for the State of Punjab 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   Hon’ble   Prime   Minister.   He   maintained   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.   All   the   same,   the   learned Advocate General for the State fairly offered that the State is more   than willing   to   have   an   independent   enquiry   of   the matter. 

We have heard learned counsel for the parties at considerable length   and   studied   the   provisions   of   the   Special   Protection Group Act, 1988 (for short, “the Act”) along with the relevant contents of the Blue Book. The legislative scheme of the Act is quite   comprehensive   with   respect   to   ensuring   proximate security of the Prime Minister, or a former Prime Minister, or their family members, as the case may be. The Blue Book contains   an   unambiguous   and   detailed   procedure   to   be 6 observed by the State Authorities and the Special Protection Group (for short, “SPG”) 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. 

It is not necessary for us to elucidate more on facts as 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.  There is, however,  a 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. 

We, therefore, find merit in the submission of Shri Maninder Singh, learned Senior Counsel for the petitioner that not only are   the   Officer(s)/Authority   responsible  for   the  above­stated lapse liable to be identified, but there is also a greater urgency to evolve new measures that may ensure there is no recurrence 7 of such lapses in the future.  

The learned Solicitor General appearing for the Union of India, supported the submission of the Petitioner and prayed for a detailed independent enquiry. The learned Advocate General for the State of Punjab also fairly expressed his willingness for an independent enquiry ordered by this Court.  

Keeping the above submissions made by the parties in view, we are of the considered opinion that these questions cannot be left to be resolved through one­sided 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.  

We   therefore   deem   it   appropriate   to   appoint   an   Enquiry Committee comprising the following: i. Justice Indu Malhotra, a former Judge of the Supreme Court of  India­ Chairperson; 8 ii. Director General or his nominee not below the rank of Inspector  General of  Police of  National  Investigation Agency­ Member; iii. Director   General   of   Police,   Union   Territory   of Chandigarh­ Member; iv. Additional Director General of Police (Security), State of Punjab­ Member; v. Registrar General, Punjab and Haryana High CourtMember­cum­Coordinator. 

The   following   are   the   Terms   of   Reference   for   the   Enquiry Committee: i. What were the causes for the security breach for the incident on 5th January 2022? ii. Who are responsible for such a breach, and to what extent? iii. What should be the remedial measures or safeguards necessary for the security of the Hon’ble Prime Minister or other Protectees?  iv. Any suggestions or recommendations for improving the safety   and   security   of   other   Constitutional functionaries.  9 v. Any other incidental issue that the  Committee may deem fit and proper. The Enquiry Committee is requested to submit its report at the earliest. 

Let the entire record seized pursuant to our 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 constituted   above,   the   enquiries   ordered   by   the  Central Government   and   the   State   Government   shall   be   kept   in abeyance. 10 19.   List  the  matter  after receipt  of the Report of  the  Enquiry Committee.

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