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From Adhir to Prince of Arcot: State cover under SC scanner

Author: PTI
Publication: The Telegraph
Date: February 14, 2013
URL: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1130214/jsp/frontpage/story_16563044.jsp#.UR3ABG_BHgZ

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Union government, all states and Union territories to furnish details of expenses incurred on providing security to various categories of persons including people with criminal background and kith and kin of VVIPs.

The court made clear that it did not want to know the expenses incurred on the security of constitutional functionaries such as President and the Prime Minister and their state counterparts.

“The Centre, all State governments and Union Territories administrations shall furnish the details of total expenses in providing security to public persons and private persons other than the Constitutional functionaries such as President, Prime Minister, Vice President, Lok Sabha Speaker... and their counterparts in States and Union Territories,” a bench of Justices G S Singhvi and H L Gokhale said.

The order was passed after two-hours of hearing during which senior advocate Harish Salve gave examples of how the provision of providing security and use of beacon lights were being misused and coming in way of right to equality of citizens.

The senior advocate cited recent reports that Minister of state for Railways Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, surrounded by his security guards and supporters, entered and vandalised the official residence of District Magistrate at Murshidabad in West Bengal.

Citing the affidavit of Tamil Nadu, Salve said the Prince of Arcot is being provided the security because of his old status accorded by the Britishers, who did it to us for ”political” reasons.

“Let me point out that the problem has become an endemic and a part of our political culture,” he said.

The bench, hearing a PIL filed by a Uttar Pradesh resident on misuse of red beacon, passed a slew of directions after going through two notes provided to it by Salve, who had also moved the court on the issue, and said, “if streets are unsafe then it has to be unsafe for the Secretary of the State also”.

Earlier, Salve had also filed a plea questioning the stoppage of traffic and other security paraphernalia put in place for facilitating the movement of high functionaries during the cremation of former Prime Minister I K Gujral on December 3 here.

During the hearing, Justice Singhvi today said, “I K Gujral would not have done it in his lifetime but his body did”.

Salve said, “I just wanted to draw the attention of the court that in my colony, five vehicles of Haryana Police are stationed outside a posh house” and on being enquired, it came to light to they were guarding a relative of the Chief Minister.

“How the police of a state can enter into other state's territory with arms... It has become a tradition. Earlier, a businessman was beaten up by Punjab police in connection with a case... luckily, he had the boarding pass of Indian Airlines flight from Bangalore to Delhi. All are not so lucky,” he said.

Taking note of the submissions, the court said all citizens should be treated at par and passed a slew of directions seeking responses on several issues including the total number of persons who have been provided security at state expense.

The bench, in its order, said, “Details of security provided to children, family members and the relatives of the public functionaries within and outside the state be also provided. Details of the persons, who are facing criminal charges and to whom security has been provided at state expenses, be also provided.”

Considering Salve's pleas based on affidavits of various state governments on security given to persons, including businessmen like Vijay Mallya, the bench sought a response on such covers provided to private individuals.

It wanted to know whether the private individuals foot their security bills or they are borne by the state.

The court also asked the state and Union Territories to “provide details of reviews undertaken of the security provided to public and private individuals.

“All the States and Union territories shall also file copies of the Rules/orders which empowers police or functionaries to close the roads for the movements/visits of persons.”

After being pointed out that blowing of sirens during the movements of VVIPs creates a nuisance, the bench also sought replies on the issue.

However, it made it clear that the ambulances and vehicles of security forces would not fall under regulatory measures.

Salve, during the hearing, sought a direction to the Centre to frame guidelines for review of security given to persons. He also said besides diplomatic reasons and ceremonial state functions, the roads should not be blocked.

The court asked Additional Solicitor General Siddharth Luthra, appearing for Delhi government, to respond as to on what basis the security covers are being provided.

It asked the Centre to apprise it about the meaning of “high dignitaries”.

During the hearing, the bench said the red light has become a status symbol. “We will start from ourselves. Remove the red light from our vehicles... get a response from the MHA Ministry of Home Affairs), it said.

Earlier, the court had said that police personnel put on duty for giving security cover to VIPs should be deployed for better purposes like making the roads safe for women.

Even judges of various courts would not have a problem if security personnel given to them are withdrawn and deployed on streets, it had said.
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