The Rajya Sabha today passed the Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill, 2019, by voice vote.
The Bill was introduced in the house by the Minister of State G. Kishan Reddy to amend the provisions of the Special Protections Group Act, 1988, which provides for constitution and regulation of the Special Protection Group (SPG). The Bill seeks to restrict the facility of SPG security, to ensure its efficiency, and was passed by the Lok Sabha on November 27.
Presently, the Act stipulates that the SPG will provide security to the PM and his immediate family members. It is also responsible to provide security to former PMs and their immediate family members for a period of one year from the date on which they cease to hold the office of Prime Minister. Beyond this period, the SPG security is provided in case the person concerned is apprehended by grave and continuing threat by a military or terrorist organization.
The Bill seeks to amend this provision to the effect that SPG will provide security to the PM and members of his immediate family 'residing with him at his official residence'. It will also provide security to any former PMs and his immediate family members residing with him at the residence allotted to him, for a period of five years from the date on which he ceases to hold the office.
The Bill also proposes that if SPG security is withdrawn from a former PM, it will also be withdrawn from his immediate family members. Presently, even if SPG security is withdrawn from a former PM, his family may continue to avail SPG's services, if it faces a level of threat which warrants so.
The government said that the SPG Act was made with the sole objective of providing proximate security to the PM and the members of his immediate family. However, amendments over the years had extended SPG security to a large number of political figures, compromising SPG's efficiency.
"…there is no cut off period for providing the SPG protection to former Prime Ministers or members of their immediate families. Thus, the number of individuals to be provided SPG cover can potentially become quite large. In such a scenario, there can be severe constraint on the resources, training and related infrastructure of SPG. This can also impact the effectiveness of SPG in providing adequate cover to the principle protectee, the Prime Minister in office.
…it is considered essential to amend the Act to focus on core mandate, as the security of the Prime Minister, as Head of the Government, is of paramount importance for Government, governance and national security. It assumes special significance in the given geo-political context of the country, its hostile neighbourhood and the multi-layered dimensions of threat the country is exposed to," the Statement of Objects and Reasons attached to the Bill read.
The Bill was opposed by certain members who said that security must be given to those, who were under threat, notwithstanding they hold the office or not. Speculations were also made that the Bill was moved to specifically target the Gandhi family.
Discarding such allegations, Home Minister Amit Shah clarified that Bill was to cut excessive expenditure and to re-route the resources towards enhancing security of citizens. He said that the move was crucial to preserve the quality training imparted to SPG personnel; which had been deteriorating since the force had been overburdened. He went on to state that he could not understand why the opposition was insisting on securing SPG cover when hundreds of SPG trained personnel were deployed at CRPF and similar other security groups.
As per JD(U) MP Ram Chandra Prasad Singh, India was behind other nations on number of police personnel per lakh population. BJP MP Neeraj Shekhar clarified that the government was only trying to topple the VIP culture and assured that if need be, a separate security force under CRPF will be created for the protection of former PMs.
The Indian National Congress expressed its dissatisfaction with the govt.'s reply and walked out during voting on the Bill.
The Bill will now be placed before the President for his assent.