Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs formed a separate committee to probe Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s security breach in Punjab and take action under SPG Act.
Special Protection Group (SPG)
- The Special Protection Group (SPG) is an agency of the Government of India whose sole responsibility is protecting the Prime Minister of India. It was formed in 1988 by an Act of the Parliament of India.
- The SPG protects the Prime Minister at all times both in India and abroad, as well as the Prime Minister’s immediate family members residing with them at their official residence.
- Family members, however, may decline security.
- Previously, the SPG’s mandate included protecting the Prime Minister’s “parents, wife (sic) and children” resident anywhere in India during their term of office and for five years after leaving office.
- However, the Special Protection Group (Amendment) Act, 2019 reduced such mandate.
- Currently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the only SPG protectee.
- Before 1981, the security of the Prime Minister at their official residence was the responsibility of the Special Security District of the Delhi Police, overseen by an officer of the rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP).
- This model was adopted from the United Kingdom, where the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is protected by London’s Metropolitan Police Service.
- In October 1981, a Special Task Force (STF) was established by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to provide transportation security and road escorts for Prime Minister during travels in and out of New Delhi.
- After the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two of her Delhi Police security personnel in October 1984, a review was undertaken by a Committee of Secretaries of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Given the breach, it was decided to entrust security of the Prime Minister to an exclusive unit under direct control of the STF to provide the Prime Minister with proximate security at all times. These decisions were initially taken as short-term measures.
- On 18 February 1985, the Ministry of Home Affairs set up the Birbal Nath Committee to examine the issue and submit recommendations to the government for prime ministerial security.
- In March 1985, the Committee submitted its recommendation for the raising of an independent agency for prime ministerial protection, known as the Special Protection Unit (SPU). On 30 March 1985, the President of India, by executive order, created 819 posts for the unit within the Cabinet Secretariat. The name of the unit was re-christened Special Protection Group, led by a Director who would be an Indian Police Service officer with the rank of Inspector General of Police.
- State role
- Under the new arrangements, on domestic visits, the Intelligence Bureau and concerned State Police were responsible for coordination, collection and dissemination of intelligence affecting the Prime Minister’s security.
- State Police and the SPG would then provide physical security arrangements for the Prime Minister in two-layers. The SPG operated under the authority of its constituting executive order for three years without legislation, from April 1985 to June 1988. That year, the Rajiv Gandhi Government passed the Special Protection Group Act to codify the order’s provisions.
- At the time, the Act only permitted security for the Prime Minister and his immediate relatives. When Rajiv Gandhi left office in 1989, he ceased to receive SPG protection as Leader of the Opposition. This occurred despite the significant threat to his life following his government’s military intervention in the Sri Lankan Civil War.
- In May 1991, Gandhi was assassinated at a political rally in Tamil Nadu by a suicide bomber of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a Sri Lankan terrorist organization.
- After his assassination, the SPG Act was amended to provide SPG security to former Prime Ministers and their immediate families for a period of ten years after leaving office.
- Prior to the end of this period, a security review would be conducted by the IB to determine a protectee’s current threat and the need for extensions (which would last five years). For this reason, Gandhi’s widow, Sonia Gandhi, and her children, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi received SPG protection for 28 years (until 2019) owing to their political activity in the Indian National Congress.
- On 27 November 2019, the Parliament of India passed the Special Protection Group (Amendment Act), 2019 which limited SPG protection only to the PM and his immediate family members residing with him at his official residence. Under the amended legislation, former Prime Ministers are eligible for an extension of their protection for up to five years after leaving office, subject to a threat assessment by the Intelligence Bureau. The bill was opposed by the Indian National Congress, fearing that the Gandhi Family would face a greater risk of violence without SPG protection. After its passage, these individuals, along with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Heeraben Modi and Jashodaben Modi, the mother and estranged wife, respectively, of incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi, lost SPG protection. They were instead accorded different levels of security ranging from Z+ to Y by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The bill reduced the SPG’s legal protectees to Modi, who lives alone at his official residence.
About SPG Act-
- The Prime Minister’s security is the domain of the Special Protection Group or SPG that is described as an “armed force” in the SPG Act.
- The SPG Act came into being in 1988 and the body functions under the cabinet secretariat.
- The Act was passed by the parliament after the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and was extended to all former Prime Ministers and their immediate families after former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated.
- The Act has provisions for “providing proximate security” to the Prime Minister of India as well as those who have previously held the post.
- Proximate security is defined as “protection provided from close quarters, during a journey by road, rail, aircraft, watercraft, or on foot, or any other means of transport and shall include the places of functions, engagements, residence or halt and shall comprise ring round teams, isolation cordons, the sterile zone around, and the rostrum and access control to the person or members of his immediate family”.
- The general superintendence, direction and control of the Group shall vest in, and be exercised by, the Central Government.
- The command and supervision of the Group shall vest in an officer to be appointed by the Central Government as the Director of the Group.
- The ASL or the Advanced Security Liaison (which means every minute of the Prime Minister’s itinerary is documented and monitored) is carried out by the SPG.
- Even though the proximate security is the SPG’s responsibility, the perimeter is to be secured by the state police in case the PM travels.
- The SPG Act was amended in 2019 to reduce SPG cover to only the Prime Minister and members of his immediate family residing with him at his official residence.
- The 2019 amendment further reduced the time period of SPG cover to the former Prime Ministers and their immediate family to five years after they leave the office, provided that the immediate family members resided at the allotted residence with the former Prime Minister.
The Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill, 2019
- The Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Amit Shah, on November 25, 2019. The Bill amends the Special Protections Group Act, 1988. The Act provides for the constitution and regulation of the Special Protection Group (SPG) to provide security to the Prime Minister, former Prime Ministers, and their immediate family members.
- Under the Act, the SPG provides security to the Prime Minister and his immediate family members. It also provides security to former Prime Ministers and their immediate family members for a period of one year from the date on which they cease to hold the office. Beyond this period, the SPG security is provided based on the level of threat as decided by the central government. The threat must: (i) emanate from a military or terrorist organisation, and (ii) be of a grave and continuing nature.
- The Bill amends this provision to state that the SPG will provide security to the Prime Minister, and members of his immediate family residing with him at his official residence. It will also provide security to any former Prime Ministers, and his immediate family members residing with him at the residence allotted to him. This security will be provided for a period of five years from the date on which he ceases to hold the office of Prime Minister.
- The Act provides that if the SPG security is withdrawn from a former Prime Minister, it will also be withdrawn from his immediate family members, unless the level of threat faced by the immediate family member warrants such security. The Bill removes this condition to state that if the SPG security is withdrawn from a former Prime Minister, it will also be withdrawn from his immediate family members.
Source: Indian Express