New Delhi, Feb 14 (PTI): The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Union government, all states and Union territories to furnish details of expenses incurred on providing security to various categories of persons including people with criminal background and kith and kin of VVIPs.
The court made clear that it did not want to know the expenses incurred on the security of constitutional functionaries such as President and the Prime Minister and their state counterparts.
“The Centre, all State governments and Union Territories administrations shall furnish the details of total expenses in providing security to public persons and private persons other than the Constitutional functionaries such as President, Prime Minister, Vice President, Lok Sabha Speaker… and their counterparts in States and Union Territories,” a bench of Justices G S Singhvi and H L Gokhale said.
The order was passed after two-hours of hearing during which senior advocate Harish Salve gave examples of how the provision of providing security and use of beacon lights were being misused and coming in way of right to equality of citizens.
The senior advocate cited recent reports that Minister of state for Railways Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, surrounded by his security guards and supporters, entered and vandalised the official residence of District Magistrate at Murshidabad in West Bengal.
Citing the affidavit of Tamil Nadu, Salve said the Prince of Arcot is being provided the security because of his old status accorded by the Britishers, who did it to us for ”political” reasons.
“Let me point out that the problem has become an endemic and a part of our political culture,” he said.
The bench, hearing a PIL filed by a Uttar Pradesh resident on misuse of red beacon, passed a slew of directions after going through two notes provided to it by Salve, who had also moved the court on the issue, and said, “if streets are unsafe then it has to be unsafe for the Secretary of the State also”.
Earlier, Salve had also filed a plea questioning the stoppage of traffic and other security paraphernalia put in place for facilitating the movement of high functionaries during the cremation of former Prime Minister I K Gujral on December 3 here.
During the hearing, Justice Singhvi today said, “I K Gujral would not have done it in his lifetime but his body did”.
Salve said, “I just wanted to draw the attention of the court that in my colony, five vehicles of Haryana Police are stationed outside a posh house” and on being enquired, it came to light to they were guarding a relative of the Chief Minister.
“How the police of a state can enter into other state’s territory with arms… It has become a tradition. Earlier, a businessman was beaten up by Punjab police in connection with a case… luckily, he had the boarding pass of Indian Airlines flight from Bangalore to Delhi. All are not so lucky,” he said.
Taking note of the submissions, the court said all citizens should be treated at par and passed a slew of directions seeking responses on several issues including the total number of persons who have been provided security at state expense.
The bench, in its order, said, “Details of security provided to children, family members and the relatives of the public functionaries within and outside the state be also provided. Details of the persons, who are facing criminal charges and to whom security has been provided at state expenses, be also provided.”
Considering Salve’s pleas based on affidavits of various state governments on security given to persons, including businessmen like Vijay Mallya, the bench sought a response on such covers provided to private individuals.
It wanted to know whether the private individuals foot their security bills or they are borne by the state.
The court also asked the state and Union Territories to “provide details of reviews undertaken of the security provided to public and private individuals.
“All the States and Union territories shall also file copies of the Rules/orders which empowers police or functionaries to close the roads for the movements/visits of persons.”
After being pointed out that blowing of sirens during the movements of VVIPs creates a nuisance, the bench also sought replies on the issue.
However, it made it clear that the ambulances and vehicles of security forces would not fall under regulatory measures.
Salve, during the hearing, sought a direction to the Centre to frame guidelines for review of security given to persons. He also said besides diplomatic reasons and ceremonial state functions, the roads should not be blocked.
The court asked Additional Solicitor General Siddharth Luthra, appearing for Delhi government, to respond as to on what basis the security covers are being provided.
It asked the Centre to apprise it about the meaning of “high dignitaries”.
During the hearing, the bench said the red light has become a status symbol. “We will start from ourselves. Remove the red light from our vehicles… get a response from the MHA Ministry of Home Affairs), it said.
Earlier, the court had said that police personnel put on duty for giving security cover to VIPs should be deployed for better purposes like making the roads safe for women.
Even judges of various courts would not have a problem if security personnel given to them are withdrawn and deployed on streets, it had said.
End the VIP culture, it is demeaning
by Akshaya Mishra 24 mins ago
There’s something demeaning about the idea of VIPs, something inherently undemocratic. It militates against the idea of equality, for the simple reason that it makes some citizens inferior to others. When red beacons and police protection become status differentiators and they come at the cost of the dignity of the ordinary citizen, there’s reason enough to challenge the idea and rip it apart.
There can be no argument that some people deserve special treatment. However, it’s conveniently forgotten that the treatment is reserved only for the special offices they hold, not for the individuals per se. The president or the prime minister of the country, for example, is protected across the world. It’s because the offices they represent and the symbolic importance they carry. In India, we have managed to subvert the logic of the ‘office’ to create an unhealthy subculture revolving around government-assigned artificial statuses.
Expensive security. PTI
In a country hopelessly short of policemen on the ground, more than 47,000 cops protect around 14,800 VIPs. While there are roughly three policemen protecting one VIP, more than 700 of ordinary citizens have to do with just one. Those not protecting the biggies have to take care of political rallies, security at public events and public places. No wonder, the crime graph is shooting up across the country.
The situation of scarcity creates its own system of injustice. It is the common man who foots the bill for the security of the VIPs while he himself remains exposed to crimes. He remains unsafe on the streets, at public places and even at his own home. Also, the protectees get preferential treatment from the police at every stage. The practice is patently unfair. Why should the citizen pay for it? In most developed countries, the state protects only a few at the very top – the constitutional heads – the rest has to manage its own security.
In India, just about everybody, who’s anybody is protected. The list is impressive indeed: politicians, ministers, bureaucrats, judges, spiritual leaders, criminals and even the kin of the leaders. “Let me point out that the problem has become an endemic and a part of our political culture,” senior advocate Harish Salve told Supreme Court today. Salve argued that provisions such as providing security and use of beacon lights were being misused and coming in way of right to equality of citizens. “If streets are unsafe then it has to be unsafe for the secretary of the state also,” he said.
“I just wanted to draw the attention of the court that in my colony, five vehicles of Haryana Police are stationed outside a posh house, and on being enquired, it came to light to they were guarding a relative of the chief minister…How the police of a state can enter into other state’s territory with arms… It has become a tradition. Earlier, a businessman was beaten up by Punjab Police in connection with a case… luckily, he had the boarding pass of Indian Airlines flight from Bangalore to Delhi. All are not so lucky,” Salve said.
In response to his argument, the Supreme Court has asked the Centre, all states and Union territories to furnish details of expenses incurred on providing security to various categories of persons, including people with criminal background and kith and kin of VVIPs. The court’s intervention was long overdue. Several governments have been worried about the burden, financial and otherwise, created by the VIP culture. However, since any action in this regard involves politicians and other influential people, they find it difficult to make a move. They will be encouraged by the court’s action.
The citizens have a right know the logic behind red beacons atop vehicles and criminals being protected by policemen. He needs to know why traffic has to be stopped for the VIP convoy and why life has to come to standstill to make life for the big ones comfortable. He also needs to know why the governments make some people superior to themselves by offering them official status differentiators.