Lok Sabha passes SPG Bill amid Opposition walkout

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam member A. Raja speaks in the Lok Sabha during the discussion on the Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on November 27, 2019. Photo: LSTV  

The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill, 2019 which will now protect the Prime Minister and members of his immediate family residing with him at his official residence.

It will also provide security to former Prime Ministers and their immediate family members staying with them at the residence allotted for a period of five years from the date on which they cease to hold office.

Replying to the debate in the House, Home Minister Amit Shah said that with this amendment, his government would restore the original intent of the Act, which was to provide security for the Prime Minister.

He said: “The people of the country should know that the security of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her children Rahul and Priyanka has not been withdrawn but changed to ‘Z-plus’ with advance security liaison and ambulance that will be given across the country.”

The Opposition walked out during the voting on the Bill.

Refuting any charges of the move being a “political vendetta”, Mr. Shah said: “The BJP does not carry out any action with a vindictive approach. It was the Congress which took many such decisions in the past. The term ‘special’ indicates its [SPG’s] special purpose. Many countries have such elite cover exclusively for their respective heads of state.”

“It is a misconception that the SPG is only about ‘physical protection’. It is not just physical security but also about covering the Prime Minister’s Office, and his health and communications as well,” Mr. Shah said.

He added that when the SPG security cover was withdrawn from former Prime Ministers Chandra Shekhar, I.K. Gujral and Manmohan Singh, “no one uttered a word”.

“Security is given on the basis of threat perception and there is no politics involved in it. Director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) personally went to meet former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and conveyed to him about withdrawing SPG cover and assured him that after threat assessment, there was no need for the SPG. Manmohan Singh himself asked Director IB to do what he feels is right,” added Mr. Shah.

The Opposition walked out during the voting on the Bill.

Opposing the Bill during the debate, MP N. K. Premachandran said: “The reasons given for bringing in the amendment includes resource constraints and allowing more effective functioning of the SPG. This doesn’t seem to be the case. The existing Bill has the provision for review, which allows the government to sieve and remove those it feels has lowered threat.”

He added: “Two former Prime Ministers of the country were assassinated when their SPG cover was gone. Rajiv Gandhi was brutally killed in Sriperumbudur in Chennai. These two former Prime Ministers sacrificed their lives. I suggest that we are not seeking for any particular individual. If there is any security threat, they have to be protected. Kindly don’t play politics in this issue. I would recommend for the Bill to be withdrawn.”

A. Raja of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam claimed the amendment was being undertaken for political reasons. Security should be based on threat perception, he said, adding that political leaders have been assassinated for political reasons. “A prime agency like the SPG is being assigned political colour in this House,” he said. 

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 8:11:32 AM |

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