High Court Judges Not Exempt From Airport Frisking, Says SC [Read Judgment]

High Court Judges Not Exempt From Airport Frisking, Says SC [Read Judgment]


Matters of security are not issues of prestige. These are not matters of ‘status’, the bench said.


The Supreme Court has set aside a Rajasthan High Court order which had directed the Union Government to exempt judges of the high court from pre-embarkation security checks.

Observing that the order of the high court transgressed the ‘wise and self-imposed’ restraints on the power of judicial review, the court said the view of the Union government to exempt certain dignitaries from security checks is based on a considered assessment of security perceptions and does not depend only on the warrant of precedence.

Suo motu ‘exemption’ by Rajasthan HC

The suo motu cognisance was taken by the high court based on a news report regarding an incident of security breach which took place at an airport. During the course of hearing, the high court directed the government to include judges of the high court in the list of persons exempted from pre-embarkation security checks. The court also made some observations regarding to the formulation of National Security Policy. The Union government approached the apex court in appeal.

HC ‘transgressed’ restraints on judicial review

The bench headed by the Chief Justice of India observed that the suggestions by the high court for framing a National Security Policy traveled far beyond the legitimate domain of judicial review. Gathering of intelligence information, formulation of policies of security, deciding on steps to be taken to meet threats originating both internally and externally are matters on which courts singularly lack expertise, the bench observed.

Speaking through Justice DY Chandrachud, it further observed: “Judges are expected to apply standards which are objective and well defined by law and founded upon constitutional principle. When they do so, judges walk the path on a road well-travelled. When judicial creativity leads judges to roads less travelled, in search of justice, they have yet to remain firmly rooted in law and the Constitution.”

‘No exemption to a dignitary who is not under effective government security coverage’

The bench noted that the pre-embarkation security exemptions do not depend only on the warrant of precedence. “Among the factors which are borne in mind is that the person who is exempted from pre-embarkation security checks must, according to the government, be secured by such a level of government security on a 24x7 basis, which would virtually preclude the possibility of any prohibited or dangerous items being introduced on board an aircraft through his or her baggage. The security perception of the Union government is that no exemption can be granted to a dignitary if he/she is not under effective government security coverage on a 24x7 basis. Heads of foreign missions in India are exempted from pre-embarkation security checks on a reciprocal basis,” the bench said.

Setting aside the high court order, the court said that the view of the Union government is based on a considered assessment of security perceptions and ought not to have been interfered with in the manner that the high court did in the exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226.

Read the Judgment here.


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