Public security should not be subject to factors like prestige and status, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday, setting aside a decade-old judgment directing central authorities to refrain from frisking high court judges or making them undergo the pre-embarkation security drill at airports.
A bench led by Chief Justice TS Thakur faulted the Rajasthan HC with not exercising “wise and self-imposed” restraint, and encroaching upon the domain of the executive by passing such a verdict. Security matters ought to be determined by governmental authorities vested with the duty and obligation to do so, it said.
“When judicial creativity leads judges to roads less travelled in search of justice, they have yet to remain firmly rooted in law and the Constitution. The distinction between what lies within and what lies outside the power of judicial review is necessary to preserve the sanctity of judicial power,” the court said.
Taking suo-motu congnizance of media reports on a security breach at the Saganer airport, the HC had ordered the government to include HC chief justices and sitting judges in the list of dignitaries excluded from the security drill.
The Centre appealed against the HC order. While the matter remained before the SC, the government revised the list to exempt HC chief justices from frisking. However, it justified the decision to not extend the courtesy to sitting HC judges by saying they weren’t in possession of round-the-clock security.
“The security perception of the government is that no exemption can be granted to a dignitary if he/she is not under effective government security coverage on a 24x7 basis. Heads of foreign missions in India are exempted from pre-embarkation security checks on a reciprocal basis,” the apex court noted.