The Supreme Court on Wednesday appointed a committee chaired by its former judge Indu Malhotra to inquire into a security breach that led to the Prime Minister’s convoy being stuck on a flyover in Punjab on January 5 .
A Bench led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana told the committee to submit its confidential report at the earliest.
Editorial | A serious lapse: On PM security breach
The others on the committee are the Director-General of National Investigation Agency or his nominee not below the rank of Inspector-General, the Director-General of Police of the Union Territory of Chandigarh, the Additional Director-General of Police (Security) of Punjab and the Registrar-General of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The court’s constitution of the high-profile committee effectively arrests the functioning of the separate panels formed by Punjab and the Centre to investigate the breach . The court had earlier got the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s Registrar-General to seize the security records in connection with the January 5 incident.
Both the Centre and Punjab had blamed each other of bias. Poll-bound Punjab had accused the Centre of trying to pile the entire blame of the lapse on it. The Centre had summoned Punjab Police officials for an explanation.
“We are of the considered opinion that the questions [regarding the breach] cannot be resolved through one-sided inquiries. A judicial trained and independent mind duly assisted by officers well-acquainted with the security considerations and the Registrar-General of the High Court, who has seized the records pursuant to our orders, will be best suited to look into all the issues and submit a confidential report for the consideration of this court,” Chief Justice Ramana read out from the order.
The terms of reference of the Justice Indu Malhotra Committee include finding out the causes of the breach; the persons responsible and to what extent; remedial measures to improve the security of the Prime Minister and other protectees; and any other recommendations for the security of constitutional functionaries.
Punjab Advocate-General D.S. Patwalia, in an earlier court hearing, had highlighted the State’s apprehensions it would not get a fair hearing. He had submitted that show cause notices had already been issued by the Centre to its officers, mentioning disciplinary action against them for the security lapse.
Mr. Patwalia had said that all the State wanted from the Supreme Court was an opportunity for a fair hearing before a neutral committee.
“If I am guilty, please hang me and my officers, but give me a fair hearing,” Mr. Patwalia had requested the court.
Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, for the Centre, had countered there had been a “complete intelligence failure” on the part of the State. Besides, he had submitted, it was an admitted fact that there had been a security lapse in violation of the Special Protection Group Act and the ‘Blue Book’.
“When there is a complete breach, there is no question of hearing. Officers responsible are served with notice. There is an admitted fact of breakage. This is a rarest of rare case. It cannot brook any delay,” Mr. Mehta had emphasised.