There is no need for the state government to spend public funds on providing police protection to political leaders because their parties are perfectly capable of taking care of them, the Bombay high court said on Friday.
“Why is the taxpayer’s money being spent on former members of the legislature and their relatives?” asked a division bench comprising chief justice Manjula Chellur and justice Girish Kulkarni. “It appears that you are providing police protection to select people because they are affiliated to certain political parties.”
Referring to a list of politicians benefiting from police protection across Maharashtra, the court told government pleader Abhinandan Vagyani: “Let them or their political parties take care of them and their relatives. It can’t be that their burden is shifted on the state exchequer.”
The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Ashok Udayvar and Sunny Punamiya, who expressed concern over the “huge outstanding dues” owed by individuals provided with police protection.
According to a chart submitted by the state government, as many as 1,034 people – including 242 from Mumbai – have been provided police protection across Maharashtra. On an average, four police personnel are deployed per person on protection duty. The list includes 482 people who are not constitutional functionaries, such as elected representatives, bureaucrats and judges.
The bench also expressed its displeasure over the service being provided free of cost to people who can easily afford to pay the requisite dues to the government. “You have categories under which some people pay and others don’t,” said the bench. “This reflects complete non-application of mind.”
The bench said it was also essential to review the government’s decision to exempt certain categories of people from payment for protection services.
During the course of the hearing, Vagyani told the court that Rs 15 crore of the total outstanding dues (Rs 21 crore in Mumbai alone) has been recovered. As much as Rs 6.85 crore is yet to be collected from people who have availed the service in other parts of the state.
The government pleader also assured the court that police and home department officials will take a relook at the entire scheme. He said the department has already decided to not provide police protection to private individuals unless they deposit a certain amount in advance.