The Top Court today accepted Punjab's plea to appoint an independent committee to investigate the case of a breach in Prime Minister's Security breach during his recent visit to Punjab. The Supreme Court said that the committee will be headed by a retired Supreme Court judge while DG NIA and Additional Director General of the Punjab Police’s Bureau of Intelligence will be a part of it. The court was hearing a plea seeking a court-monitored probe into the alleged security breach during the PM's visit to Punjab.
The Prime Minister's convoy was stranded on a flyover due to a blockade by protesters in Ferozepur after which he returned from poll-bound Punjab without attending the planned events, including a rally.
A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli was hearing the plea filed by an organisation, Lawyers Voice.
The top court had earlier directed the Registrar General of the Punjab and Haryana High Court to "secure and preserve" the records pertaining to arrangements made for the prime minister's visit to Punjab when there was a "massive security breach".
CJI raps Centre, saying: "Don't show that we are not serious."
The court has formed an inquiry panel comprising the DGP of Chandigarh, IG of NIA, the registrar general of the high court. A retired Supreme Court judge will head the panel.
Justice Hima Kohli said: "The impression you're giving to the court is that you have already made up your mind. So, why did you come to the court and tell us on Friday that you will hold your horses?"
Justice Surya Kant said: "Your show-cause notice is contradictory. In the same notice, you're saying that you are constituting a committee [for inquiry] and then you say they are guilty. Who has held them guilty? Where was the inquiry?"
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said: “The travel was planned. It was the responsibility of the state authorities to ensure that the route was scanned. It was not a spontaneous decision. The alternate convoy route was kept ready.”
The Centre claimed that PM Narendra Modi's convoy started from Bathinda airport after the DGP told the SPG that the route was clear.
"The AG is correct when he says there was no hearing. There is no hearing. The hearing will be on the disciplinary provisions when the committee considers where there were lapses. But a clear violation of the blue book rule needs no hearing," Mehta said. "There was an admitted lapse in security. There is no question of inquiry and trial in action against the Punjab government officials responsible for the breach," he added.
Senior Advocate Maninder Singh, appearing for the petitioner-NGO, submitted that the Committee be asked to explore the invocation of UAPA also with respect to the incident, as the Punjab Police FIR only mentions a minor offence under the Indian Penal Code. Responding to this, the CJI said "let us not complicate the issue now".
Finally following a detailed hearing, the bench said it will pass an order in the matter. “We are taking the PM's security breach very seriously,” the bench said. The bench indicated other members of the committee would be DGP Chandigarh, IG National Investigation.
Agency, registrar general (Punjab and Haryana High Court), and ADGP (security) Punjab. The bench added that it will ask the committee to submit its report to it within the shortest possible span of time.