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Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019

Cabinet nod to bill reducing ex-PMs’ SPG cover to a year

The proposed legislation has been listed in the government’s business for next week in the Lok Sabha, Union minister of state for parliamentary affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal said on Friday.

india Updated: Nov 23, 2019 01:26 IST
Sudhi Ranjan Sen
Sudhi Ranjan Sen
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
SPG and Delhi Police conduct mock drills ahead of Independence Day in New Delhi on August 13, 2017.
SPG and Delhi Police conduct mock drills ahead of Independence Day in New Delhi on August 13, 2017. (Raj K Raj/HT archive )
         

The Union government has cleared changes in the law that will entitle only the country’s Prime Minister to security services from the elite Special Protection Group (SPG) – and former PM’s only for a year after they demit office – in a move that is likely to draw strong political reactions.

The Union cabinet cleared on Wednesday the Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill, according to a senior security official in the established who asked not to be named. The proposed legislation has been listed in the government’s business for next week in the Lok Sabha, Union minister of state for parliamentary affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal said on Friday.

At present, the law allows the SPG to protect former Prime Ministers and their family for a period of 10 years after the end of term. Additionally, it leaves the scope for an extension of the cover beyond ten years in case the perceived threats justifies it.

The longer duration of protection was brought in by an amendment in 2003. “In effect, the proposed change will revert back to the original position,” the senior official quoted above said.

Leaders and workers of the Congress have held public demonstrations and have raised in parliament the Union government’s decision to remove SPG protection from the family of Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi, her family members including Rahul Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The security was downgraded earlier in November.

The Gandhi family was included as SPG protectees shortly after the assassination of former PM Rajiv Gandhi.

According to the proposed law, a year after demitting office, the security of former Prime Minister and his family will be moved to other agencies, such as the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the National Security Guards (NSG) or the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) – depending on the threat faced by the individual.

The threat perception is determined by a committee comprising agencies like the Intelligence Bureau, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

Limiting SPG protection to former Prime Minister’s for a year after they demit office will automatically apply to members of the immediate family as well, a second senior official who did not want to be named said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now the only person who is protected by the SPG. Earlier, this year, the SPG cover of former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh was withdrawn after an assessment downgraded the threat faced by him.

The former Prime Minister has a Z-plus security cover provided by the CRPF.

On Friday, the Delhi Congress and its workers held a protest march at the Jantar Mantar on the withdrawal of the SPG security cover of the Gandhi family. The protesters tried to march towards the Parliament House but were stopped by police.

The government has maintained that extension or withdrawal of security cover is dependent upon the “threat perception assessment” of security agencies.