<b>XIII LOK SABHA DEBATES, <i> Session II (Winter Session) </i> </b>
XIII LOK SABHA DEBATES, Session II (Winter Session) Thursday, December 9, 1999/Agrahayana 18, 1921 (Saka )

Title: Further discussion on the Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill, 1999. Moved by Shri L.K. Advani on the 8th December, 1999. Bill Passed.

14.52 hrs

SHRI MANI SHANKAR AIYAR (MAYILADUTURAI): Mr. Chairman, Sir, yesterday, when I was required to terminate my remarks, I had drawn attention to the provisions relating to advance security liaison which constitute the heart of the very different kind of security which the SPG provides. I had just ended describing the nature of this advance security liaison when I was required to terminate my remarks. Therefore, I would like to resume my speech at that point.

The hon. Minister of Home Affairs would recall that yesterday I had drawn particular attention to the speech made by the Minister moving the Bill on the 10th of May, 1988 and his reply on the 11th of May, 1988. I would take the liberty of specifically drawing the attention of the hon. Minister to two important statements made by the Minister on those two days. Each of those is not more than a sentence. So, I seek the indulgence of the House to quote what Shri P. Chidambaram said on the 10th of May. You will find it in column 450 of the record of the proceedings of the House. He said:

"in discharge of its duties and responsibilities the Group (that is, the SPG) carries out advance security liaison at places to be visited by the Prime Minister and for this purpose it is equipped with a Technical Wing having a wide-range of technical equipment and gadgets."

This is what distinguishes the SPG from other forms of security that are provided. He went on to say the following day that it was important to pay attention to clause 14 of what was then the SPG Bill and is now the SPG Act, which provides:

"Every Indian Mission, every local or other authority, every civil or military authority, to go in aid of the Director of the Group"

In other words, every single authority, where the Prime Minister is scheduled to visit, whether it is in India or abroad, is required to give priority attention to these security requirements.

This is not available for any other form of security in the country. It is unique to the SPG form of security. Then again, after he ceased to be the Minister in charge, when he was not in the Government, Shri P.Chidambaram, intervening in a debate on a motion under Rule 193 which I had, in fact, moved, said something which I think bears repetition in this House once again. This was on the 13th May 1993, reported in columns 418 to 419 where Shri Chidambaram said:

"Sir, there was no officer, no police officer in the whole of India who was feared more for the authority he wielded than an officer whom we designated as AD (Functions)... he had the authority to overrule anyone in India, including the Chief Minister of a State."

That is the kind of authority that is vested in the SPG to undertake the security work of a Prime Minister. That kind of security cannot be assured by anybody except the SPG. That is really the point which I am repeatedly underlining particularly because of my apprehension that the remarks which the Home Minister made with respect to other forms of security while talking about the SPG might - by mistake, and I certainly know that it is not his intention - be taken to apply to this particular form of security.

The same point was reiterated by Shri P.Chidambaram in his deposition before the Jain Commission which took place on the 6th November 1996 where at page 5 of his deposition, Shri Chidambaram repeated that they, that is, the SPG, had overriding powers to overrule other security agencies. This too is not available to other. So, in all these terms - in terms of the kind of selection that is made so rigorously, in terms of the special training that is provided to them, in terms of the technical equipment and gadgets made available to them, in terms of the power vested in them to make arrangements for advance security liaison and in terms of the power given to them to override not only any local official or police official, however senior that police official might be for other purposes, but going so far as to be able to override a Chief Minister in determining what is the security requirement at a particular place to be visited - the SPG was endowed with the power to overrule any other security agencies that might have a different view about how security is to be handled.

It was this new concept that was brought into security for the Prime Minister and his immediate family when the SPG was first formed in 1985 and subsequently given Statutory status in 1988. Unfortunately one of the most important requisites in this regard was ignored in 1988, which is what happens when a Prime Minister who has SPG cover ceases to be the Prime Minister. It is a matter of regret that it was neglected at that time because if not in this House, but certainly in the other House, that is, the Rajya Sabha, the then TDP Member, Shri P. Upendra, who is now with us in the Congress Party, had specifically asked a question in this regard and it was not answered. So, when he went before the Jain Commission in 1996, in his deposition before the Jain Commission on the 21st November 1996, at page 1 of the record, Shri P.Chidambaram stated:

"I did not undertake any exercise to anticipate a situation when Rajiv Gandhi may lose elections and demit the Office."

In consequence of this negligence on our part in not anticipating a situation where the Prime Minister would cease to be the Prime Minister and making adequate provision for that, while the Prime Minister was still in office, we entered a situation, effective early December 1989, when Rajiv Gandhi ceased to be the Prime Minister of India, but the threat that he faced did not cease and which, in fact, according to the Verma Commission, increased.

15.00 hrs.

In that situation the now Prime Minister took a decision to temporarily continue SPG cover for the former Prime Minister even though this was not mandated under the law and could be construed as contravention of the law. In doing this, certain adjustments had to be made. And in particular, I would draw the attention of the hon. Home Minister to the note prepared by the Cabinet Secretary at that time, Shri T.N. Seshan, on the 14th December, 1989 for the use of the Prime Minister's Office which is part of the records of the Jain Commission. If I marry these two sentences together, one of which is in para 7 (v) of the note and the other in 9 (v) of the note, it reads like this:

"For domestic tours of the Prime Minister, officers of the SPG and IB conduct joint advance security liaison along with officers of the State Police to go into and finalise security arrangements... Therefore, for the time being, officers of the IB and SPG will carry out advance security liaison."

Tragically, as it turned out to be, the alternative security arrangement that was put in place for this ex-Prime Minister at the beginning of February, 1990 on the withdrawal of SPG made no provision whatsoever for advance security liaison. Yet, without advance security liaison, the kind of security for the ex-Prime Minister on tour which was necessary for him to meet not just the previous threat perception but the enhanced threat perception was so poor that the inevitable happened. And because the inevitable happened, Mr. Chairman, I would seek your indulgence to quote myself. I said here in this House on the 13th of May, 1993:-

"The Sriperumbudur incident would never, never have happened had the SPG been detailed for Rajivji's security on the 21st May, 1991. Advance liaison by the SPG would never, never, never have permitted inadequate barricading, inadequate lighting, crowding at or near the rostrum, the collapse of access control which have been listed in the Verma Commission of Inquiry Report as among the contributory causes to the assassination."

I have to repeat this again here today. I am deeply grateful to the hon. Home Minister for recognizing the special quality of SPG security as against any other form of security. He has brought this amendment which will have the effect of continuing SPG cover for ex-Prime Ministers and their families for as long as it is required. The great difference between the amended SPG Act of 1991 and this is that the provision of SPG security was made ex-officio at that time. Merely by virtue of having been the Prime Minister or a member of the Prime Minister's family, SPG cover was automatically, blindly and mechanistically extended. Now, there are two provisos to sub-section (1) of the Act it would be introduced in section (4) of the Principal Act, which say that in deciding whether or not to extend such SPG cover on at least on a yearly basis, for no more than twelve months can lapse between two threat perception assessments, the agencies concerned will weigh the nature of the threat and determine whether SPG protection should or should not continue.

In other words, the Government through this legislation is casting upon itself a statutory duty to examine with all seriousness whether there is or is not a threat perception that warrants the provision of such security cover. Had such a provision existed in the original 1988 Act, perhaps we would not have got that disastrous decision of January-February, 1990 which led to the tragedy at Sriperambadur. It is certainly not a tregedy which we would wish to see repeated ever again, for nothing destablises a democracy as badly as does the politics of murder. We have to preserve ourselves even if we do not wish to preserve our differences. Democracy rests on the assumption that those who are elected to positions of high office will be able to take those ... (Interruptions) I am sorry, Sir. I plead with you to give me a few more minutes.

MR. CHAIRMAN : Only one hour was allotted to this item. There are a number of speakers.

SHRI MANI SHANKAR AIYAR : I will just take a few minutes more, Sir. You will appreciate that I do need a few minutes more. We are talking about the lives of important people.

These two provisos, however, apply only to Section 1. I am not sure why they do not apply to Section 1(A) as well. In my view, it is not necessary to oppose the Bill on this ground at this stage. In my view the provisos of Section 1 should be brought in pari passu in Section 1(A) as well. Indeed, because the Home Minister has raised in his presentation other forms of security, I would plead with him that these provisions be taken into the general statutory provisions relating to the provision of security. For, at the moment, the decision to perform any kind of security duty is a purely executive decision which has to be taken by a political authority who is necessarily subject to political pressures of the kind to which the hon. Home Minister drew our attention yesterday. As a result of these unwarranted political pressures, the number of people enjoying security in different categories has gone completely out of hand and it is being looked upon not only as a status symbol but also as a way of garnering personal comforts such as a place of residence. If, however, there were a statutory requirement applying to all forms of security which are going to be used for this special type of security then the decision as to whether or not security is at all to be provided, and if so, what category, would be taken out of the strictly executive, and, therefore, political realm and brought into a larger technical realm, because one can assume that the intelligence agencies and security agencies responsible for making such a threat perception would then in their assessment give the reasons for which they have arrived at their conclusions. Therefore, it would greatly ease the problems of the Home Minister if he were to put all forms of security into the kinds of provisions that have been provided for in the provisos to Section 1 of the Bill before us just now.

I would just go one step further and with that I conclude my remarks. We have in the National Security Advisory Board, experts on the question of national security who are advising the Government without being either civil servants or politicians. They are there because their expertise outlives their retirement. So, we have a number of former Foreign Secretaries, former RAW Chiefs, former Defence personnel who are serving the Government in advisory and, honorary capacities in the National Security Board. If in a similar way, people like Shri M.K. Narayanan, the former IB Chief, were to be inducted into the processes that make these threat perceptions, perhaps the degree of expertise would go higher and such persons being ex-civil servants would not be subject in quite the same way as civil servants, however, good they are, to political pressures.

This would perhaps make the whole process even more transparent. Since it is the Home Minister's own Government that has taken the initiative in bringing former Government experts in as independent experts subsequent to their retirement in the national security field, perhaps he could consider doing this too for assessing threat perceptions.

I have taken Shri M.K. Narayanan's name deliberately because while everything else that the Home Minister said yesterday was a cause of some comfort and even rejoicing, his reference to the NSG was, I submit, most unfortunate at the present juncture. It is absolutely true that the NSG was formed for meeting terrorist threats in terrorist affected areas and that their use for personal security does diminish the totality of the force to fight terrorism that is required in terrorist-infested areas. But when he singles out the NSG, we have -- as we heard in the reaction from the AIADMK -a specific example of a former Chief Minister who is under intense threat and will be under increasing threat if the LTTE continues its military victories in Sri Lanka. Now if you want to withdraw NSG cover from her on the noble principle that NSG is supposed to be for terrorist infested areas and not for personal security, then you will have to devise an equivalent personal security force before you take that decision.

I say this with deep sadness in my heart because the Verma Commission reports says that on the 20th of May, 24 hours before Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated, Shri M.K. Narayanan who had been reinstated as the Director of the Intelligence Bureau, was making "frantie" efforts to somehow contact the Government of the time to tell them that the threat to Rajiv Gandhi had reached such enormous proportions that we must supply NSG cover for Rajiv Gandhi, adding "even if he refuses to have such cover". There are political situations that can be created and they were created, by those who largely constitute the NDA today, who so trivialised and so politicized the security of the Prime Minister that it became politically expedient for that ex-Prime Minister in his attempt to once again come to political office to shed security at a rate which was inadvisable. Therefore, as your Bill provides that former Prime Ministers can ask that security be withdrawn from them at will, please recognise that there might be circumstances in which it is not out of their own volition but out of political circumstances that they may ask for such withdrawal leading to terrible tragedies with terrible consequences. Therefore, your provisos in Section 1 should also perhaps apply to situations where a demand for withdrawing security is made. If the security perception continues to be high, perhaps such requests should be turned down in the national interest.

Having said so, Sir, may I just repeat that I support this Bill and trust that the House will pass it unanimously?

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