The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to set up a panel, headed by a former apex court judge, to probe the Prime Minister Narendra Modi security breach in Punjab last week.
After a detailed hearing in the matter, a bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli said the court will set up a committee headed by a retired top court judge to probe the PM’s security breach and asked both the Centre and Punjab government to not move ahead with their respective inquires into the matter.
The bench said it will pass a detailed order in the matter. During the hearing, the bench orally proposed that other members of the committee would be Director General of Police (DGP) Chandigarh, Inspector General (IG) National Investigation Agency (NIA), registrar general (Punjab and Haryana High Court), and Additional DGP (security) Punjab.
The bench said: “We are taking the PM’s security breach very seriously”. The bench added that it will ask the committee to submit its report to it within a short span.
Advocate General D.S. Patwalia, representing the Punjab government, complained against show-cause notices to its chief secretary and DGP. He urged the top court to form an independent committee to probe the matter. “Hang me if I am guilty… but don’t condemn me unheard,” submitted Patwalia.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, defended the show-cause notices issued by the Central government. However, the top court expressed its displeasure at Centre’s stand, questioning what is the point of asking the court to examine the matter if the Centre wanted to go ahead on its own.
Senior advocate Maninder Singh, representing the Delhi-based petitioner Lawyer’s Voice, emphasised on the importance of protection to the PM of the country and cited previous top court ruling that looked at the SPG Act.
The plea sought an independent probe into the PM’s security breach in Punjab. It sought a direction to the District Judge Bathinda to collect, preserve and present all material pertaining to the movement and deployment of Punjab Police in connection with the visit of the Prime Minister, and fix responsibility of the DGP and the Chief Secretary, Punjab.
On January 6, the Ministry of Home Affairs constituted a three-member committee to enquire into the “serious lapses in the security arrangements” during the PM’s visit to Ferozepur, in poll-bound Punjab. The MHA said: “The committee will be led by Sudhir Kumar Saxena, Secretary (Security), Cabinet Secretariat, and comprising Balbir Singh, Joint Director, IB, and S. Suresh, IG, SPG.”
Lawyers receive call against SC taking up the case
Several Supreme Court advocates on Monday claimed to have received an international call with a recorded message asking the apex court not to help the Central government by taking up a case connected with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s security breach in Punjab last week.
Shivaji M. Jadhav, president Supreme Court advocates-on-record Association, said one of the executive members of the association has received the call. People familiar with the development said the recorded message also claimed responsibility for blocking the PM’s passage last week.
According to sources, several advocate-on-record (AoRs) received calls from an unknown international number in the morning with a recorded message that Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) has taken responsibility of PM’ security breach in Punjab. The recorded message added that the top court did not do enough with regard to killings of Sikh community members during the 1984 riots.
Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, in a tweet, said: “The audio sent by the “Sikhs for Justice USA” to AORs in the SC must be treated with circumspection. The audio could be a hoax motivated by publicity or to blur the trail to the guilty. But since it contains a veiled threat to SC judges/AORs the NIA must investigate it forthwith.”
Sensing the gravity of the matter, those who received the threat calls have lodged complaints with different agencies.
One such criminal complaint was filed by AOR Deepak Prakash and his team, Divyangna Malik and Nachiketa Vajpayee, with the Commissioner of Delhi Police.
As per the complaint, a London-based group is threatening AOR and practicing lawyers of the Supreme Court.
“The group is also warning the Supreme Court not to take up the PM’s security breach case. The accused are threatening all the advocates to stop the hearings on PM’s security breach taken up by the apex court, failing which there will be extremely adverse reactions which will affect the national security and integrity of the nation,” Prakash said in his compliant.
The said callers claimed to be part of a group in the UK. The calls were made from the number +447418365564, which is registered under the name of ‘Likely Sales’.
Prakash said that the said calls were terrifying and created fear in the AOR fraternity, who have been threatened and warned of dire consequences by the London-based group.
A senior police officer said that such calls have been made to a number of persons and the police are taking the matter seriously.
Lawyers ask SC for Action
The Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA) has written to the Secretary General of the Supreme Court seeking action against anonymous caller, who took responsibility for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s security breach in Punjab last week.
In a communication, SCAORA Secretary Joseph Aristotle S. said several advocates-on-record of the top court received an anonymous automated pre-recorded call from +447418365564, one at 10.40 a.m. and another call at about 12.36 p.m. on Monday. “Fastening responsibility for Prime Minister Modi’s security breach during his visit to Punjab on January 5, on Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) from USA, wherein it was stated that SFJ is responsible for blocking PM Modi’s cavalcade at Hussaininwala flyover in Punjab,” added the communication.
The caller warned the top court judges to refrain from hearing the PIL by NGO Lawyer’s Voice seeking probe into the security breach on the ground that the Supreme Court has not been able to punish the culprits of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. “In view thereof, it is requested that immediate action be initiated as this is a violation of privacy of the advocates on record as their mobile numbers are out in public domain and have been compromised as all confidential data and sensitive information pertaining to cases before the Supreme Court and banking details are stored on their respective mobile phones and the miscreants may misuse the sensitive data, if the mobile phones are hacked,” added the communication.