Decoding the importance of the SPG amendment bill
New Delhi, Nov 28: The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed a bill to amend the SPG Act.
According to the amendment, the SPG will now protect the prime minister and members of his immediate family residing with him at his official residence.
It will also provide security to former prime ministers and their immediate family members staying with them at the residence allotted for a period of five years from the date on which they cease to hold the office.
Family members of a former prime minister who don't reside with him at his official residence will not be guarded by SPG commandos anymore and those who reside with him at his allotted accommodation will get security cover of the elite force only for five years.
As per the Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill, proximate security will be given by the force only to the prime minister and members of his immediate family if they live with him at his official residence.
The importance of the Bill:
While introducing the SPG (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy said in the existing act there is no cut off period for providing 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 a severe constraint on resources, training and related infrastructure of the SPG. This can also impact the effectiveness of the elite force in providing adequate cover to the principle protectee -- the prime minister in office, the bill says.
The legislation says that therefore, it is considered essential to amend the act to focus on the core mandate, as the security of the prime minister, as head of the government, is of paramount importance for the government, governance and national security.
"It assumes a special significance in the given geopolitical context of the country, its hostile neighbourhood and the multi-layered dimensions of the threat the country is exposed to. In recognition of this critical security imperative for the prime minister in office, a special enactment was made to constitute the Special Protection Group with the sole objective of providing proximate security to the prime minister and the members of his immediate family," the bill said.
The bill says that the SPG shall provide proximate security to the prime minister and members of his immediate family residing with him at his official residence and to any former prime minister and members of his immediate family as are residing with him at the residence allotted to him, for a period of five years from the date he ceases to hold the office of prime minister.
The bill makes it clear that when the proximate security is withdrawn from a former prime minister, such proximate security shall also stand withdrawn from members of his or her immediate family.
The Special Protection Group Act, 1988 was enacted to provide for the constitution and regulation of the SPG as an armed force of the Union for providing proximate security to the prime minister and his immediate family members.
The Act was amended in 1991, 1994, 1999 and 2003 to extend SPG cover to former prime ministers and their immediate family members also, for different periods of time from the day the prime minister demitted office.
It was last amended in 2003 to extend the SPG cover to former prime ministers and their immediate family members for one year from the demitting of office of the prime minister and thereafter based on the level of threat periodically assessed by security agencies.
The decision to withdraw the SPG cover given to the family of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was assassinated by LTTE terrorists on May 21, 1991, was taken after a detailed security assessment early this month.
The Gandhis are now without SPG protection after 28 years. They were included in the VVIP security list following an amendment of the SPG Act in September 1991.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now the only person to be protected by the about-4,000-personnel-strong SPG.
Under the rules, SPG protectees are provided with guards, hi-tech vehicles, jammers and an ambulance in their cavalcade.
The Gandhis are now guarded by the 'Z-plus' security of the Central Reserve Police Force.
Under the 'Z-plus' security, they are being protected by CRPF commandos in close proximity, besides guards at their homes and wherever they travel in the country.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had on Thursday dubbed the removal of SPG cover from the Gandhi family as part of politics that keeps happening.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday said the security of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her children Rahul and Priyanka has not been withdrawn but changed to 'Z-plus' with an ambulance.
Replying to the debate on the SPG (Amendment) Bill, he asserted that the BJP does not carry out any action with a vindictive approach and it was the Congress which took many such decisions in the past.
"Impression is being created that the SPG Act is amended to withdrew security from the Gandhi family. Security of the Gandhi family has not been withdrawn but changed to 'Z-plus' with advance security liaison and ambulance that will be given across the country," he said.
Shah said when the SPG security cover was withdrawn from former prime ministers Chandra Shekhar, I K Gujral and Manmohan Singh, no one uttered a word.