The Union home ministry has sought the aviation ministry’s permission to allow an armed security officer to accompany home minister Rajnath Singh on domestic commercial flights.
Sources said the request was made in April in view of increased security threats to the home minister, who is one of the most heavily guarded politicians in the country and has the topmost Z-plus category security cover. Singh’s mobile security cover includes commandoes from the National Security Guard.
“Permission has been sought for the accompanying PSO of the home minister to carry arms and ammunition on board commercial flights,” an aide of the home minister said.
The Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), which reports to the aviation ministry, is said to have opined initially that only a select group of VVIPs, including the Prime Minister, President and those protected by the Special Protection Group (SPG), are allowed to be accompanied by an armed PSO on board commercial flights.
“These are sensitive security-related issues. Carrying a weapon inside an airport or an aircraft requires a whole lot of clearances and coordination between various agencies, airport authorities and airlines,” an official said.
It was pointed out to the BCAS, the country’s civil aviation security regulator, that there have been instances in the past where VIPs were allowed to be accompanied by armed PSOs on flights.
“The facility can be extended in rare cases where there is a grave security threat,” another official said.
“The facility was extended to the former deputy PM and leader of the Opposition, LK Advani, former home minister Shivraj Patil and former UP chief minister Mayawati.”
BCAS chief Kumar Rajesh Chandra refused comments while a top aviation ministry official said: “We are examining the issue.”
Sky marshals are the only other people allowed to carry weapons on domestic flights, though they are deployed randomly in the country. India started using such undercover security officers on board a commercial aircraft to counter hijacking after terrorists skyjacked an Indian Airlines Delhi-Kathmandu flight on December 24, 1999.