New Delhi: Parliament on Tuesday passed the bill amending the SPG Act, paving the way for SPG cover only for Prime Minister and his immediate family members at his official residence, as the Rajya Sabha approved the measure by a voice vote amid a walk-out by Congress members.
The Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill, 2019, has already been passed by the Lok Sabha.
The elite security cover would also be provided to former Prime Minister and members of his immediate family “residing with him at the residence allotted to him for a period of five years, from the date he ceases to hold the office”.
In his reply to the discussion on the amendment bill, Home Minister Amit Shah said that four amendments were earlier made to the SPG Act and the present one is the fifth one. He said that the earlier four amendments were done keeping one family in mind but this time it has not been done keeping any family in the mind.
He said that Prime Minister is getting SPG protection as he is the head of the state.
“SPG is there for Prime Minister because he is the head of the state. If someone is no longer the Prime Minister but still wants SPG, it does not happen like that in a democracy,” Shah said.
Saying that he can’t understand why some people are adamant about SPG, he explained its constitution and how the personnel in the elite security group are from various forces including state police.
“Those in SPG don’t come from foreign countries. They are security personnel from this country itself. In the SPG, 33.33 personnel come from the BSF, 33.34 per cent from the CRPF, 17 per cent from the CISF. From the ITBP, there are 9.33 per cent personnel while 6 per cent from the SSB and 1 per cent from state police,” the Home Minister said.
He said that after five years, the security personnel go back to their cadre.
Participating in the discussion, Congress leaders accused the government of political vendetta in the move aimed at stripping the Gandhi family of the security cover. They got the support from RJD member Manoj Jha and CPI leader Binoy Viswam.
Senior Congress leader B.K. Hariprasad demanded that the bill be withdrawn as it was politically motivated. He noted that the Gandhi family had made the biggest sacrifice for the nation and hence their security should not be compromised.
Jha asked: “Would the government have brought this bill if some of the protectees did not have Gandhi surname?”
BJP MP Subramanian Swamy supported the bill saying it was long overdue. He said that everybody was equal before the law and hence no exception should be made for one family.
SAD leader and Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Gujral said that security has over time become a status symbol.
“When this House enacts a law, we have to think of the next 25 years. In the last 72 years, we have had 15 Prime Ministers and going forward in the next 30 years we will have another 10-12 Prime Ministers. So, we have to think about the whole thing in holistic manner. We can’t afford to waste money. However, I do say whichever family, whoever person in the country, in politics or not in politics requires security, must be provided with security,” he said.
With many Congress members raising the issue of security breach at Priyanka Gandhi’s residence, Amit Shah said that an enquiry had been immediately ordered to ascertain the breach.
Detailing the sequence of events that led to the breach, Shah said that the security at Priyanka Gandhi’s residence had been informed that Rahul Gandhi would come in a black Tata Safari car.
He said that this information was at the gate. Further, at scheduled time, a black Safari came. In the car, instead of Rahul Gandhi, came Sharda Tyagi, the Chief of Congress Committee from Meerut along with four other party workers. Since the car was black Safari and came around the same time, it was allowed inside.
Shah said that even now and earlier, Priyanka Gandhi’s husband Robert Vadra, Rahul Gandhi and other family members do not go through the security arrangement.
“It was a coincidence. We have ordered an enquiry. All three responsible for the breach have been suspended. The enquiry is being carried out by the senior most IG (Inspector General),” he said.