Bill limiting SPG cover for ex-PMs introduced
The government on Monday introduced in the Lok Sabha, the SPG (Amendment) Act 2019, limiting the security cover of former Prime Ministers and their families. The government has pointed to the need for the special protection group to focus on the Prime Minister’s safety, given the “geopolitical situation” and India’s “hostile neighbourhood”.
Minister of State of Home Affairs G Kishen Reddy introduced the bill in the lower house of Parliament amidst a disruption by the Congress, which was agitating against political developments in Maharashtra.
The SPG (Amendment) Act 2019 proposes to revert to the previous norm where security cover to former Prime Ministers was limited to a period of five years after they demitted office. In addition, the proposed legislation also proposes that only family members of former Prime Ministers “residing with him in the residence allotted to him” will be protected.
This is contrary to the current position. Currently, former Prime Ministers and their family members are provided security based on a “security assessment” and there is no cut-off period for SPG security. The SPG Act , 1998 limited providing security cover to former Prime Ministers to one year after they demitted office.
“In the act, there is no cut off period for providing SPG protection to former Prime Ministers or members of their immediate family. Thus the number of individuals to be protected can potentially become quite large. In such a scenario, there can also impact the effectiveness of SPG in providing adequate cover to the principle protectee, the Prime Minister,” the statement of object and reason placed with proposed law said.
It also said: “It is considered essential to amend the act to focus on the core mandate as the security of the Prime Minister, as the Head of Government, is of paramount importance for the government, governance and national security. It assumes a special significance in the given geo-political context of the country, its hostile neighbourhood and the multi-layered dimensions of the threat the country is exposed to.”
SPG cover to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh was withdrawn after an assessment downgraded the threat faced by him. However, the former Prime Minister now has Z-plus security cover provided by the CRPF. Similarly, the SPG cover of the Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi was also withdrawn. They have all been provided Z-plus security cover by CRPF.