New Delhi: The contentious Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed by Parliament on Tuesday, making the Prime Minister and the former PMs the only VVIPs to enjoy the elite protection.
The Congress, which had vehemently opposed the Bill, staged a walkout in Rajya Sabha during the voting process. The legislation was passed in Lok Sabha last week.
Replying to the debate in the Upper House, Home Minister Amit Shah sought to dispel apprehensions that the amendment will make the Gandhi family vulnerable to threats. He said the security cover to the Gandhi family was not being removed but was being changed from SPG to Z+, on par with the protection provided to the Defence Minister and to himself.
He said SPG cover should not be seen as a “status symbol”, nor its mandate by diluted by deploying the specialised forces for a “particular family”.
“Each citizen is equal in the eyes of law. SPG cover is not for a particular family. Security of 130 crore Indians is the government’s responsibility,” he said.
The Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill 2019 has restricted the use of the special forces to former prime ministers and immediate family members only for five years after demitting office. With this amendment, even the President and Prime Minister will not be entitled to lifelong SPG protection, he said.
Taking a dig at the opposition, he said that the SPG security cover of several previous Prime Ministers had been removed in the past, but there were no protests of the type that is being witnessed now.
He said the intent of the law is to focus on Prime Minister’s security, as the PM is constitutionally the head of the Government. It looks after the Prime Minister’s personal security, health, communication and secures the PMO and Prime Minister’s residence.
The passing of the legislation came even as the Opposition benches raised the incident of the security breach at Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s residence on November 25 . The Home Minister informed that three security staff personnel have been placed under suspension after the incident at Priyanka’s residence. He said an investigation is underway.