PM’s security breach: SC-appointed panel finds then SSP at fault, says failed to secure route
A Supreme Court-appointed committee has blamed the then senior superintendent of police of Ferozepur for security violations during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Punjab in January.
The committee, headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice Indu Malhotra, said SSP Harmandeep Singh Hans had failed to step up security on the prime minister’s route despite time, sufficient force and knowledge of the opposing groups.
On 5 January, Prime Minister Modi’s convoy left the Bathinda airport for Hussainiwala in Ferozepur but was blocked by protesters along the way. The convoy was stuck on the flyover for 15-20 minutes – a blatant violation of safety protocols.
On 8 January, Hans, an IPS officer, was transferred and posted as the Commandant of the 3rd IRB Battalion in Ludhiana.
Chief Justice of India N V Ramana, presiding over a three-judge bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hema Kohli, perused the report submitted by the committee on Thursday and read it out.
“About two hours from 10.20 was a sufficient time when G Nageswara Rao (Additional Director General of Police) informed (Hans) that the Prime Minister would take the contingency route and the route should be adequately strengthened. Despite clear instructions from G Nageswara Rao, at least 2 hours before the Prime Minister entered Firozpur district, SSP Firozpur failed to act on G Nageswara Rao’s instructions,” the CJI said, citing the report.
He said that the court reporter would be sent to the government. “Let the government act.”
Asked whether it would be possible to make available a revised version, the CJI said he was not sure as the report could contain sensitive information on security arrangements.
Reading this, the CJI said: “(SSP) failed to discharge his responsibilities for maintaining law and order…has come to block the road…he failed to enlarge and strengthen the route at Firozpur, However, they had sufficient forces available with them.
The report also made recommendations to enhance the Prime Minister’s security during the visit, including setting up an inspection committee for periodic revision and updating of the “Blue Book” and conducting sensitization courses for the training of police officers.
Meanwhile, Hans was unavailable for comment despite several attempts. He didn’t even respond to text messages.
The apex court, on January 12, while hearing a petition by a Delhi-based NGO Lawyers Voice, appointed its former judge Justice Malhotra to head a committee to probe the security breach.
The terms of reference of the Inquiry Committee were: what were the reasons for the security breach leading to the 5 January 2022 incident; Who is responsible for such violation, and to what extent; What should be the necessary remedial measures or safeguards for the safety of the Hon’ble Prime Minister or other security persons; any suggestions or recommendations for improving the safety and security of other constitutional functionaries; Any other emergent issue which the Committee may deem fit and proper.
On January 7, the court directed the Registrar General of the Punjab and Haryana High Court to seize and secure all records regarding security for the PM’s visit and keep them in safe custody.
Subsequently, the court was told that “relevant records were obtained, confiscated and secured” and “sealed and kept in the custody of the Punjab and Haryana High Court”.
It was then directed that the seized records be handed over to the chairman of the inquiry committee. The Center had earlier constituted a committee on its own to probe the matter and requested the court to allow it to complete its work. This was opposed by the Punjab government, which said it had “no hope” in the Centre’s committee and urged the court to constitute an “independent one”.