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It Is For State To Assess, Review Threat Perception: Supreme Court Dismisses Plea For Withdrawal Of 'Z+' Security To Mukesh Ambani & Family

Mehal Jain
31 Oct 2020 11:20 AM GMT
It Is For State To Assess, Review Threat Perception: Supreme Court Dismisses Plea For Withdrawal Of Z+ Security To Mukesh Ambani & Family
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Dismissing a plea seeking withdrawal of security cover to Reliance Industries' Mukesh Ambani and his family members, the Supreme Court on Tuesday, nevertheless, observed that "it is for the State to assess and review the threat perception of individual on case to case basis". The bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and M. R. Shah were hearing a SLP against the December,...

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Dismissing a plea seeking withdrawal of security cover to Reliance Industries' Mukesh Ambani and his family members, the Supreme Court on Tuesday, nevertheless, observed that "it is for the State to assess and review the threat perception of individual on case to case basis".

The bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and M. R. Shah were hearing a SLP against the December, 2019 decision of the Bombay High Court, where it was held that that the Commissioner of Police, Mumbai and other respondents "have no option but to ensure that the highest level Z+ security is provided to these private respondents", "irrespective of whether any individual or any authority is convinced about the existence or otherwise of real threat to their life or liberty", particularly when they are "willing to bear the entire cost for said security to protect their lives in view of their own grave threat perceptions".

Noting that the Supreme Court in the 2015 Biswanath's case had held that if the police is satisfied about the existence of threat to the life and security of citizens, they shall be provided free security, the division bench of the High Court, in the impugned judgment, had went to the extent of stating that "Irrespective of the satisfaction of the police, the citizen can claim protection based on his own threat perception by paying cost for the same.

In context of these observations of the High Court, the three-judge bench of the Supreme Court proceeded to clarify, "We, however, observe that it is for the State to assess and review the threat perception of individual on case to case basis". The SLP was, however, dismissed.

Advocate Karan Bharihoke appeared for petitioner Himanshu Aggarwal, while the Ambanis were represented by Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi.

Before a division bench of the Bombay High Court, the Petitioner by a PIL had sought directions to the Commissioner of Police, Mumbai and the Union of India to forthwith withdraw the security cover to Respondent Nos.3 to 10 (Mukesh Ambani, his wife, sons, daughter, daughter-in-law, son-in-law) and to recover the cost of providing security to them. It was the contention of the Petitioner that Respondent Nos.3 to 10 are not entitled to any security cover at the cost of public money. According to him, there was no real threat to Respondent Nos.3 to 10, and even otherwise the said family can afford private security. According to the Petitioner, the public money is being wasted on the security of private persons when there is shortage of police personnel for maintaining law and order.

"Significantly, another PIL challenging the security cover to one of the Respondents herein has earlier been dismissed by the judgment in Nitin's case. The co ordinate bench in Nitin's case also observed that in genuine and deserving cases, the State is bound to provide security cover not only to Ministers, ex-Ministers, bureaucrats, but also to private citizens who have fundamental right to life which includes right of protection of his life", the bench of Justices Surendra P. Tavade and Ranjit More had noted.

Observing that the revenue of Reliance Industries Limited Corporation "have substantial impact on India's GDP", the High Court had said that the threat perception of these private individuals cannot be lightly ignored to deny the protection to their life. "Once threat from terrorist organisation has been found by the the Respondent State and already as noted above in the said earlier judgment of the co-ordinate bench considering existence of such treat perception and likely cascading effect thereof, private respondent's family members to have security protection of the highest category to protect their life and limb cannot be alleged as lacking in substance", it said.

The bench noted that the law regarding necessity to provide or grant of security cover to the citizens is well settled by the Apex Court in a challenge filed by the West Bengal Government to the directions issued by the High Court to provide armed security at the cost of State in Biswanath's case (2015).

"The private respondents herein are not desirous of any security at the State expenditure for protection of their lives. They are themselves bearing the cost for security provided by the Respondent-State. The private respondents herein are willing to further bear the cost of availing the highest level of security.

We find no error in private respondent's family seeking and availing the Z+ security in the above facts and circumstances.

The judgment of Hon'ble Supreme Court in Biswanath (supra) is binding throughout the territories of India", the High Court had ruled, dismissing the PIL with costs.

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